I Started a Pinterest!

I had this impression that Pinterest was only for girls, until Jon Acuff told me that all the cool kids have a Pintrest.  I’ll basically do anything that guy says.

I did some research and it turns out I don’t have to turn in my man card if I have a Pinterest.  It’s just a short probation.  Technically, it’s called a “brobation.”

But seriously, I have now fallen in love with pinning stuff.   Like usual, I’m 5-7 years behind cultural trends.  Go ahead and laugh.

My new site is full of stuff from my blog, Lifeline videos (including the El Matadore collection) and random other awesome stuff.  Check it out!  Aaron’s astronomical new Pinterest.



Don’t Be a Negative Nancy in 2014

As we forge into 2014 I’m taking some time to reflect.  Is it just me or does it seem like there was a boatload of negativity in 2013?  Let me paraphrase my Facebook and Twitter feed from the year:

I don’t like that thing that guy said and if you do you’re stupid.

I hold one political belief and if you don’t agree with it you’re stupid.

I have a set of moral or religious values and if yours are different you’re stupid.

I’m not content with my life so you’re stupid,

I have no patience or grace of offer anyone so you’re stupid

My fantasy football team keeps losing so you’re stupid (ok, that’s just me)

So, to keep up my usual habit of offering advice that no one has asked for, here are my thoughts on internet behavior:

Calm down.  I fondly remember a time where people didn’t FREAK OUT and call for someone’s head on a platter over simple disagreements.  You don’t agree with my religion or politics?  That’s totally cool.  I’m not going to call you a moron and post a bunch of Memes to back up my name calling.  What’s the point?  That certainly is no way to win you over to my side.  Never once have I read an ugly hateful post from anyone that has made me think, “Gee whiz, maybe I should join them, they seem like fun”.

Now, I’m not asking the Right and the Left, Atheists and Christians, or Ohio State and Michigan fans to join hands and sing Kumbya.  How about we just start off by easing up on the exclamation point key?  Or, wait for it…..reserving some thoughts for face to face conversations rather than tweeting them.  You remember face to face right?  It’s where you say something to someone and you have to deal with their reaction in person.  It’s very 90s.

Suck it up.  Sometimes life is hard.  You didn’t get your Amazon order by Christmas.  Someone slid into your car at a stop sign.  Your kids were sick for all of Christmas break.  Your power went out.  I know what you’re thinking “You don’t know me or what my life is like.”  You’re right.  So with that in mind, why are you airing all of your complaints, issues, and personal problems on Facebook?  Either you have a complicated personal life that needs to be worked out with your close friends and family, or you’re just raining on the Facebook parade.

Seriously?  Let’s keep in mind that regardless of what’s bothering you, or the latest bit of manufactured outrage that has your undies in a twist- if you have the resources and ability to squawk about it online then you are better off than 90% of the population on earth.    OK, stand back-here comes the Jesus Juke….if you want to see people who are in need, people who are suffering, people who have it bad, maybe you should go on a mission trip.  Can you get water from your kitchen tap that’s not flavored with Cholera?  Then perhaps you should sit down and count your blessings and possibly have a cup of chamomile tea (I hear it’s relaxing)

Look, I’m not saying that you should never ever complain online.  This isn’t Panem and we don’t live in District 12.  I’m just saying that if you’re a Christian and you make it a habit to complain or fight with people on the internet you may want to rethink your social media presence.  Perhaps your dis-contentedness is telling God that you don’t trust him with the little things in your life.  The whole premise of following Christ is making him the boss of your life, and He can’t be boss if you always think you know better.



Guest Blogger:  Christina Thelen has been serving in student ministry for over 8 years and has been policing Internet idiocy since Al Gore invented it.  When she isn’t volunteering with students she can usually be found planning epic events or posting cat pictures to Facebook.


image credited to stark23x

Lessons on Porn from the British


Apparently the leaders of the British government have had enough of pornography.  David Cameron, the Prime Minister of gave a speech recently in which he announced that pornography is “corroding childhood.”  He announced that “family-friendly filters would be automatically selected for all new [Internet] customers by the end of the year – although they could choose to switch them off.   And millions of existing computer users would be contacted by their internet providers and told they must decide whether to use or not use ‘family-friendly filters’ to restrict adult material.”

If you’d like to read an article that describes this in detail, click here.

What I appreciate about Cameron’s speech is not that his measures will stop people from viewing pornography because people who want to watch porn will find a way.  What I appreciate is that he is willing to call pornography wrong.  He took a stand to protect the children of his nation.

Secondly, I do believe that Cameron’s initiatives could push back how early children see pornography.  Based on the testimonies of students and volunteers that I’ve interacted with, most people’s first contact with pornography happens unintentionally and almost always through the Internet.

With that said, we as parents and youth workers need to come to terms with the fact that kids will see pornography.  The latest statistics that I’ve seen reveal that 98% of boys have seen pornography by age 18.  More and more kids are introduced to pornography while in elementary school.  So what do we do?  How to do help our children navigate this?  Here are a few thoughts:


First, we need to come to terms with the fact that our children will see pornography.  The age where we could keep them from the destructive influence of porn is gone.  Now, we must learn to help them navigate a culture in which sex is pervasive.

This doesn’t mean that we simply surrender.  In fact, it means that we must be even more vigilant.  The first step is to help our elementary age children understand that pornography is wrong. And, if they run into it we want them to talk to us about it.  We want our children to process their introduction to porn with us, not friends or the Internet.



Watch what your kids are doing online.  Set up filters when they are young to protect them.  And when they are older, use X3watch.  This is a tool that will email you (or any accountability partner) any sketchy sites that your child visited.  It is an accountability tool.  In my opinion, accountability is better than filters because your child will learn to navigate around filters.   X3watch can lead to conversations between you and your child, which is exactly what your child will need.





One of the ways you can help our kids is by explaining the dangers of pornography.  We need to stop simply saying, “Don’t do it because it is wrong.”  Kids aren’t dumb.  They need to understand for themselves why it is dangerous.  This video does a nice job of explaining how pornography affects the brain in the way drugs do.


Computers are relatively easy to monitor.  Just keep the computer in a public space in your home.  Smart phones and tablets are a different story.  It is alarming that kids can access pornography anywhere at any time from a device they keep in their pocket.

When setting up boundaries, don’t forget about mobile devices.  A good rule is to require that your kids’ phones be charged in a public place overnight.  Keep all screens in public places.  Also, consider putting X3watch on mobile devices as well.


The way we respond to our kids when they confess to looking at porn or when we receive an email from X3watch that reveals what our kids have been looking at will determine whether or not our kids will trust us with accountability and honesty in the future.  Respond with compassion and help rather than anger and disappointment.

Especially for teenage boys, pornography is overpowering.  They need help navigating our over-sexualized culture rather than a guilt trip.  Help them set up boundaries.  Yes, consequences are still important but make them constructive.

The stories I hear of students overcoming pornography always involve them coming clean with their parents (particularly their dads) and their parents responding with compassion, love and healthy consequences and boundaries.



Parenting Through Social Media

I ran across a very interesting study last week about parents and social media.  The gist of the study is that “teenagers who are connected to their parents on social media feel closer to their parents in real life.”

This makes sense to me because whether we like it or not and whether we think it is good or not, students value social media connections.  They not only value them but actually find real meaning in them. Parents ought to take advantage of this and jump into social media.  Unfortunately, according to the study, only 16% of parents are interacting with their kids through social media on a daily basis.  As parents, we are missing a huge opportunity here!

Secondly, I am continually shocked by parents who do not know what their kids are doing online.  I’m not a isolationist by any means but the Internet can be a dangerous place and the decisions that students make on what to post can stick with them forever.

Also, why in the world do we let our children into social arenas in which children and adults mix regularly–in which normal people and creeptastic people regularly mix, without keeping an eye on them?  At the risk of offending parents…GET ONLINE AND OBSERVE YOUR KIDS!

So, now that I’ve yelled at you…I bet you’re wondering what social media apps you should get involved with.  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Here are (in my opinion) the most popular social media apps with teens…

snap chat

1. Snap Chat:  This is one of the only social media sites that scares me.  Kids taking pictures and videos of themselves and send them to friends.  The trick is that the pictures delete after only a few seconds leaving no trace of the images.  A recipe for awesomeness…nope.  I would recommend at least a conversation with your child about this app.  I know quite a few parents who have banned this app.  The worst thing about it is that you can’t monitor it.


2. Teens love Twitter.  One of the reasons is that most parents aren’t on it.  I personally use Twitter constantly.  You’ll be dismayed by the stream-of-consciousness style of communication that teens often use but it will help you connect with your kid and you’ll learn a lot about the way he and his friends process life.





instagram small

3. Instagram is fantastic.  It’s all about sharing photos and videos.  There are simple editing tools that make you look like a photography pro.  You can also share photos on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook all at once.  One of the great features of Instagram, Vine, Facebook and others is that you can “like” your kid’s posts or pictures without making an obnoxious comment that embarrasses her.  “Liking” is an easy way to show support, approval or simply that you’re paying attention without being intrusive.

Vine right one

4. This app is very much like Instagram except exclusively video.  Before Instagram added video it was the video app of choice for students.  It may fall out of favor but for now many teens are still on it.

facebook small

5. Many teens shy away from using Facebook for anything other than pictures because Facebook is so huge.  And, most parents are already on Facebook so students go to other social media outlets to hide.  If you aren’t on Facebook or are but aren’t friends with your kid you need to get on!


So if you’re a parents, get involved with social media.  Leverage social media to help you invest in your kids’ lives.  If you do, according to the study I read, it may actually deepen your relationships with your children.


The Day I Almost Got Fired

I can honestly say that over 10 years and two churches, I have been a pretty good employee.  I actually work 40+ hours, show up on time and even dress semi-appropriately.  In fact, I’ve almost been fired only one time.  Personally, I think that one time over 10 years is pretty good.  So, why did I almost get fired?  I’m glad you asked.


Before the days of Twitter, Facebook ruled the Internet.  Before Facebook, MySpace was all the rage.  Before MySpace was Xanga.  If you remember this you’re borderline old—like me.  As a young youth pastor, I took to Xanga like a fiend in an attempt to get on my students turf.

Gone Emergent

At this same time I opened a new vein of study.  I randomly picked out a new book because I liked the cover.  The book was Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.  For the record, I read this book before you did.  I WAS A TREND SETTER!!!

I read it in one sitting.  It still remains one of my favorite books.  The Salinger style and the fresh approach to faith blew my mind.  I quickly read The Art of Prayer and Volkswagen Maintenance and moved on to other authors of what would later be dubbed the Emergent  Movement—Rob Bell, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren and many others.

At this point in my life, I was just a few years out of Moody Bible Institute and I found this new theology to be incredibly intriguing.  All this reading and thinking needed a processing outlet so naturally I began writing on my Xanga account.  And this is where I got in trouble.

Not that kind of Old School

Did I mention that I was working at a Baptist church—A Baptist church that had been a stalwart in baptism theology for over 100 years?  100 year old Baptists aren’t down with Emergent theology.  I guess I didn’t put together that people actually read my Xanga and considered my theological exploration to be hard and fast positions.

I was exploring, thinking outside the box and deciding where to settle theologically.  In the end I adopted new language, a much more relational understanding of God (Thank you Searching for God Knows What), a more missional approach to church and a theology not that far from where I started in the first place, but at the time it sounded to my Baptist employers like I took a swan dive off the deep end.

One fine afternoon, my boss took me for a walk.  We’d never done this before so I sort of thought maybe I was getting a raise or something.  I was surprised when instead I got reprimanded.  To his credit, my boss gently explained why it was a problem that I was processing theology and church practice in such a public place.  Instead of getting upset he applauded my curiosity and exploration and at the same time explicitly warned me of what my current employment would look like if I kept processing the way that I had been.

Process Appropriately

That conversation had a profound impact on me.  The lesson I learned is that we as pastors need to be careful where we process.  Our exploration can deeply impact the people who follow us—especially if they are adolescents.  We also need to be sensitive to the historical and cultural settings in which we are employed.  At some point, God may call us to challenge the norm but how we go about that is incredibly important.

I’m thankful that my boss was gracious and yet direct.  At a time when I was struggling with organizational church, if he had mishandled the situation I may have reacted negatively and been fired or left the church.  Instead, I was simply almost fired and went on to continue to grow and explore in more appropriate environments.

How about you?  Ever been almost fired?  Do share.