Rachel Joy Welcher’s Talking Back to Purity Culture: Rediscovering Faithful Christian Sexuality takes a look at the Purity Culture many in Gen X grew up with, the impact of it, and discusses how Christians could have a healthier approach to conversations and teachings around sexuality. I think she presents a strong case for the weaknesses and damage caused by a legalistic approach while at the same time giving great insights on how believers can both hold to scripture while letting go of the judgement and damaging rhetoric.
I loved this particular quote from the book: “Purity culture’s main problem is not that it is too conservative but that it is too worldly. Sex is not about self, and abstinence is anything but sexy. Dressing it up as such is not only confusing, it’s discouraging. When our children realize that pursuing sexual purity is incredibly difficult, they will wonder why we didn’t prepare them. Sometimes we think God needs us to dangle carrots in front of people in order to make his message palatable, when he has called us to preach a gospel of foolishness to those who are perishing, a message so offensive to our pride that we must either reject the Son or fall at his feet.” (Kindle location 2722)
From my own experience, the legalistic, purity culture approach to teaching on sexuality lays a foundation that sets young people up to believe that they are either choosing God or sexual activity. Statistically, we know that Christian young people tend to be sexually active at similar rates to non-churched young people. This legalistic approach to teaching on sex does not scare them into good behavior; it instead leads them to believe that they have fundamentally rejected God and now it’s too late. Welcher writes powerfully on this, exposing the damage and ramifications of such an approach.
Unlike many books that just focus on the negative aspects of purity culture and leave the reader wondering if there is anything they can do instead, short of giving up and allowing for a sexual ethic that is indistinguishable from the world around us, Welcher does give far healthier approaches to viewing sexuality and discussing it based on scripture. Overall, I think she has written an important book for anyone in a position of leadership – whether as a teacher, youth worker, pastor, or parent. Definitely worth reading!
Drawing on her training, research, and years of experience working with girls, DaMour effectively lays out the challenges for adolescent girls, the rise in stress and anxiety, and a lot of insight on how girls handle it and its impacts on them. I think she also does a great job on giving insights on how to help girls navigate their stress and anxiety.
The most surprising thought she put forward? “Here’s the first thing we can do to help our daughters take control of anxiety: we can teach them that anxiety is often their friend.” (p.13) Surprised? So was I, but as she goes on to explain, anxiety is our natural alert system – when we learn to trust it rather than fear it, it can be a great tool for giving us insight on what’s going on around us or issues that we need to deal with. At the same time, it can also be a concerning issue. DaMour does a great job contrasting the two and giving tools for recognizing when it’s healthy and when it’s concerning.
Overall, I thought it was an important book and definitely worth reading for parents and those who work with girls. My one frustration was that at times it almost seemed like DaMour painted boys with a broad brush that suggested they don’t have struggles or that adolescence is far easier for them. As with girls, over the last five years I have seen surprising rises in stress, eating disorders, self harm and suicidal tendencies with boys as well – it just manifests differently. All that being said, it’s definitely an important read.
2020 has had a lot of challenges … but it was a fun year for being published! I had a chapter in a book, saw sixteen curriculum resources release, and had nineteen games and other media type resources release. I should probably clarify that I did not create all of this in 2020; some of these were resources I had submitted in 2018 and 2019. It takes anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple years for things to go through the publishing process. Another fun development this year was teaming up with different family members; both Noah (Hua Mulan) and Zach (Guinea Pig Party) had ideas for games that we put together during quarantine. Heather was the brains behind the Caption Challenge and Hashtag games, both of which have been far more popular than anything I have come up with, as well as the one who came up with the idea for Insta Devos. And Micah helped me with Actin’ Sus, which will probably retain the title of best selling youth ministry resource by a McNutt until the end of time. Anyway, if you’re interested, click on them to check them out!
In the most recent episode of my podcast, “Kinda Interesting: Thoughts on Youth Ministry,” I talk about our seven year teaching plan. Essentially, I wanted to tackle three things with our Sunday morning teaching time over the seven years we have a student in our youth ministry (6th-12th grade); core truths that we really want to drive home, topical issues relevant to the group’s needs, and biblical literacy. You can check it out here.
Having stayed committed to this plan for more than a decade now, I’m increasingly happy with it. It’s flexible enough that we really are able to roll with what’s happening in culture, needs of the group, and strengths of the teachers. At the same time, it gives enough structure that we have to give our topic selections a lot of thought and care so that we can meet our big picture goals. Finally, I love the thought that for several years now, any graduate that has been at our church for middle school and high school will have graduated with teaching from every book of the Bible.
Core Truths (yearly, 11 weeks). These are the teachings we land on every year – if teens don’t remember anything else when they graduate, at least they’ll know these eleven lessons. Within this broader category, there are two main themes; our church values and purpose (Know, Grow, Go) inform us of why we gather, while the HABITS series gives the spiritual disciplines that tell us how to follow God.
Fellowship (‘we are real people’)
Worship (‘in love with a real God’)
Discipleship (‘in love with a real God’)
Evangelism (‘making a real difference in the world’)
Service (‘making a real difference in the world’)
Hang time with God (quiet time)
Bible study and memorization
Involvement in church
Sacraments (communion, baptism)
Topical (yearly, 17 weeks). This is the category that gets the most flexibility year by year. Basically, it’s age specific, felt need topics (e.g., the place our group is in right now leads us to talk about this). Some topics will probably be repeated every year (dating, sex, peer pressure).
Biblical Literacy (23 weeks). This is the bigger picture piece of the puzzle. One of our church values as a whole is Biblical literacy, and our concern that as a culture we are becoming less and less familiar with the scriptures. Towards that end, over the course of seven years we will give students an overview of the whole Bible, working our way through every book (in varying degrees of depth). If you look at the plan,, you’ll see that we’re working our way systematically through the Old Testament while bouncing around the New Testament.
Our student ministry has been posting short devos called “Insta Devos” to our Instagram and Facebook pages. It’s been a fun way to see students interact with scripture and share their insights with one another. This week, our youngest – Zach – who is moving up into the youth group in a few weeks, did one as well! I’m super proud of him … it’s my favorite Insta Devo!
My ninth First Testament curriculum resource was released last week by the Youth Cartel, this one on the book of 1 Kings! First Kings is a fascinating book to study; the historian in me loves the stories of the different kings of Judah and Israel. It is history with a purpose; the stories are chosen by the author(s) to demonstrate God’s power and His desire for us to follow Him alone. It is very applicable to today – and each lesson has connections to the book of James. Like the other First Testament curriculum, it is a four week small group guide full of discussion questions and lesson ideas. They’re only $5.99 each, or you can grab five of them for only $19.99 (that’s twenty weeks of material for a buck a week!). Here’s the official description:
First Kings is history written with a theological purpose; the author(s) wanted the readers to know there is one true God. Despite the covenant between God and His people, the Israelites fell into a downward spiral of increasing sin and death. Their constant selfishness, idolatry, and fighting with one another, resulted in the nation splitting in two, Judah and Israel, and a long list of evil rulers. Only a handful of the kings followed God, but even through all the failure, First Kings is an important book for believers today.
Through the stories of the different kings, students learn important lessons about God’s power, our dependence on Him, the hope we have in spite of failure, and the incredible love God has for each of us.
Week 1, Solomon the Wise (1 Kings 3): A challenge to look to God for wisdom.
Week 2, Solomon the Fool (1 Kings 11): Solomon allowed to sin to creep into his life; this lesson challenges students to keep their focus on God.
Week 3, Asa the Good (1 Kings 15): In spite of failures, Asa was able to be righteous before God.
Week 4, Ahab the Evil (1 Kings 16-18): Idolatry was not just a danger for the ancients, it is a real danger today as well.
My eighth (!!!) First Testament curriculum resource was released last week by the Youth Cartel, this one on the book of Lamentations! I’ve always loved the book of Lamentations; in many ways I believe our culture pushes us towards unhealthy ways of handling sadness, grief and suffering; Lamentations models a far healthier way to process difficult times. It’s beautiful poetry, haunting and terrifying imagery, and fascinating that it doesn’t have a happy ending. I think for many, this current season is a perfect time to embrace the five laments of Lamentations and work through them. Like the other First Testament curriculum, it is a four week small group guide full of discussion questions and lesson ideas. They’re only $5.99 each, or you can grab five of them for only $19.99 (that’s twenty weeks of material for a buck a week!). Here’s the official description:
Lamentations is a collection of five poems, or laments, that wrestle with the pain, grief and horror the ancient Israelites experienced at the hands of the Babylonians. Their nation conquered, their temple destroyed, and their children taken captive, they were a devastated people. Lamentations was written and/or collected by the prophet Jeremiah and read in unison every year on the anniversary of the destruction of the temple. Lamentations teaches the reader how to grieve. It also teaches lessons about God’s judgment, compassion and sovereignty.
Included with this study is a collection of 60 images to be used as a discussion opener for each study. Lamentations uses word images to convey message and meaning. In the same way, use the photos to get the participants to think abstractly, to identify and communicate message and meaning.
Week 1, Family (Lamentations 1): The importance of family and connections in the grieving process.
Week 2, Judgment (Lamentations 2): What does God’s judgment mean? What is its place in our lives?
Week 3, Compassion (Lamentations 3): Even when the end is not in sight, it is possible to see God’s compassion and hope in our suffering.
Week 4, Sovereignty (Lamentations 4-5): God’s power and authority is absolute; what does that mean when we suffer?
Download Youth Ministry recently released a one-off message resource that I put together called Tale of Tamar. I’ll be honest, this is one of my all time favorite messages I have ever done. In the message I use the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1 as a launching point, noting that the gospel is proclaimed through the names chosen. In spite of tradition and expectations, as genealogies were used to enhance the purity and dignity of the person being traced – in this case Jesus – some shocking names are included. One of which is Tamar; a foreign woman from ancient Jewish history, whose shocking story of sexual mistreatment is actually a beautiful story how God sees each of us. In God’s story, Tamar’s presence enhances the purity and dignity of Jesus’ lineage.
All that to say, I love this resource. It includes the message manuscript, powerpoint, handouts, and a small group discussion guide. Doug Fields wrote about it, “I’d teach this tomorrow… actually, I probably will. Ha. Seriously, who wants to teach on Matthew chapter 1? Well, now I do. Well done.” If you want to check it out, here’s the link. Check out DYM’s description:
Are genealogies even important? In Matthew 1:1-17, we see the gospel proclaimed through the genealogy of Jesus. Shockingly, four women are mentioned, including Tamar, a Canaanite who was taken advantage of and abused by the men in her life. We read her story in Genesis 38. In God’s economy, Tamar’s presence enhances the purity and dignity of Jesus’s lineage. In this one-off message, you’ll challenge your students to find their identity and value in Christ’s story, not in their past.
Tamar’s tale, often forgotten, is a powerful one that is incredibly relevant today.
My seventh First Testament curriculum resource dropped a few weeks ago with the Youth Cartel, this one on the book of Daniel! And yes, I was working on it BEFORE I heard of the Tiger King. I love the book of Daniel; it’s one that we may feel so familiar with after years of Sunday School lessons … but it’s far more edgy and thought provoking than our third grade teacher led us to believe. Like the other First Testament curriculum, it is a four week small group guide full of discussion questions and lesson ideas. They’re only $5.99 each, or you can grab five of them for only $19.99 (that’s twenty weeks of material for a buck a week!). Here’s the official description:
Perhaps one of the more well-known names in scripture, Daniel was a prophet trapped in a foreign land. Captured as a teenager when his nation was conquered and his family most likely killed, he was taken away from all he knew and forced to live in Babylon where he was castrated and given a new name. He should have lost his identity through all of that, yet he remained powerfully committed to God through a lifetime of captivity. His life teaches young people powerful lessons in God’s sovereignty, what it means to be faithful, and opens the door to conversations around ancient prophecies.
Week 1, Babylon (Daniel 1): A challenge to recognize God’s control and have the faith to stand for Him.
Week 2, Belshazzar (Daniel 5): A warning about pride and how it can negatively impact decision making.
Week 3, Lion’s Den (Daniel 6): A powerful lesson in just how important prayer is in the life of a believer.
Week 4, Prophecy (Daniel 10-12): A reminder that we are precious to God and have overwhelming victory in Him.
This is it people, the authoritative ranking of Star Wars movies. If you disagree, you’re wrong. This list is based on a lifetime of study and repeat viewings. Decades of intense research culminating in this list.
The Empire Strikes Back (Episode 5). The boldest of all the movies. The bad guys win. The introduction of vital new characters. An incredible deepening of the mythology. It’s not even a contest.
A New Hope (Episode 4). The original. The reason why this list even exists. It shattered movie expectations, invented the repeat audience, and launched a fan base who would spend the rest of their lives trolling each other with ridiculous lists.
Return of the Jedi (Episode 6). Yes, I like the Ewoks. I think they’re cool. Even as a kid, however, I was uncomfortable with Leia’s claim that she always knew Luke was her brother. Probably should have left that unsaid.
Rogue One. This movie was so much better than I expected! I loved the backstory to the originals, loved how the director was able to incorporate unused cockpit footage from the original Star Wars. And yes, I teared up at Leia’s appearance at the end. The first time I saw the movie was the day Carrie Fisher died; I had no idea she had done voice work for Rogue One.
The Force Awakens (Episode 7). Yes, it played to nostalgia, and I ate it up. Loved the story, loved the action, loved seeing Han Solo back in action. His death? Brutal. But so good.
Solo. I’m convinced this movie disappointed in theaters because Disney didn’t advertise it and they bumped up its release to only a couple months after The Last Jedi was still in theaters. The story was great and set up a new section of the Star Wars universe that hopefully still gets explored.
The Last Jedi (Episode 8). Yes, it ticked off a lot of people. But I like that the director took risks with the story. It’s good that Luke wasn’t just another version of Yoda. It opened the door to new stories. I didn’t really buy into the slow motion space chase, though. That was obnoxious. And throwing away Snoke after building him up so much? What the heck.
The Rise of Skywalker (Episode 9). Hey, lets try to jam multiple movies worth of story into one film. And pack in too much fan service. Make Rey a Palpatine (that was cool) but then call her a Skywalker (what?!?). Bring back the Emperor with little to no explanation. And a massive secret army. And using the force to have Star Trek transporters. Oh yeah, and Rey and Kylo should kiss, because that would be gross and awkward. And yeah, Kylo should be good after all even though it would have been cool to not have the same story as Return of the Jedi. I have more, but this comment is already too long.
Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. I was so hype for this movie when I was a kid! It wasn’t great … but it definitely great to have more story from the Star Wars universe. Plus, I love Ewoks. They’re just so cool.
Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. More Ewoks! I’m super frustrated with Disney+ that these two movies are not on it yet. Get on it, Disney!
The Star Wars Holiday Special. Oh my word. Search for it on YouTube. So bad it’s … well, it’s still bad, but you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment for getting through it. Also, it has the first appearance of Boba Fett. So there’s that. George Lucas has been trying to bury it for decades; I can only hope that after his eventual passing, Disney restores it and releases it in all its ridiculous glory.
Attack of the Clones (Episode 2). Yoda as a Tasmanian Devil. Painful love story between Anakin and Padme. The convenient arrival of a massive clone army. Jar Jar Binks only has a few seconds on screen and dooms the entire universe? That was cold.
Revenge of the Sith (Episode 3). Obi-Wan Kenobi makes the prequels bearable. And there are some awesome space battles in this one. Unfortunately, it also has a lot of Anakin. And younglings.
The Phantom Menace (Episode 1). The preview trailers were amazing. I was so excited. But then it was all pod racing and Jar Jar Binks. The best part of the prequels? Darth Maul … and he only got a few seconds of screen time before being killed. Bummer.