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Youth Culture Window

Our Response to the MTV Movie Awards
Three Essential Practices for Your Youth Ministry
An article from Jonathan McKee at

MTV is a window into our youth culture.

That's what I always tell you. But lately it's getting harder and harder for me to even peek in that window. Every glance is like a flashback to the pubescent conversation that surrounded me in the jr. high boys locker room during second period P.E. so many years ago.

If you've been an EZINE subscriber for even six months, you've probably heard me refer to the twice a year that I watch MTV. I never gain popularity points in Christian circles by verbalizing that. Some from the church think I shouldn't be paying any attention to filthy influences like MTV. At the other end of the spectrum are those in the church who think the polar opposite, "Oh, MTV isn't that bad."

Regardless, twice a year is enough for me. I get a sufficient taste of MTV each year by simply watching their Movie Awards (late Spring) and then their Video Music Awards (in the Fall).

I'll be honest. I'm a big advocate of keeping aware of our youth culture and even using it to provoke discussions with kids. (We're even devoting time in each of our free podcasts to a section we call youth culture window.) But I can only stomach so much of MTV. I'm not a big fan of adults in the corporate world pimping smut to our children. And that, in a nutshell, is MTV.

But please, don't take my word for it. Decide for yourselves. has a link on their front page to see the highlights of Sunday night's movie awards on demand. You can watch every minute of Sarah Silverman's raunchy opening monologue as well as some of the other online highlights you don't want your students seeing (Oops, I guess it's too bad that 74% of 8-18 year olds have ready access to a home internet connection1 and 59% are MTV viewers, watching MTV at least once a week).

Or -most of you are reading this article on Wednesday-check your TV schedule; a repeat of this year's 2007 MTV Movie Awards is being shown again on MTV tonight. I encourage you to watch just the first 10 minutes of the show.

If they decide to actually air the first 10 minutes again, then this is what you'll hear:
  • Jackass' own Johnny Knoxville riding a cartoon purple horse and joking to Sarah Silverman that she can ride his "purple pony."

  • The host Sarah Silverman commenting about how many celebrity vaginas she sees in the room that night.

  • A joke about Paris Hilton being comforted by the bars in her jail cell because they have been painted like penises.

  • A commercial for "the dirtiest mouth moment," awarding the movie with the worst language this year.

  • Sarah singing a song filled with words that the sensors have to beep...and a few that you wish they would have.

  • Jack Nicholson following suit with his language, and stumbling through a speech that will leave you wondering what was in that bottle he was chugging during the show.

If you stick around longer than ten minutes, then you'll also see:
  • Dane Cook talking about "nipple slips," punching himself in the balls, and being "hard" watching Rihanna perform.

  • A clip from the movie Borat showing two naked men rolling around a bed fighting.

  • Will Farrell and Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat) winning best kiss and kissing each other on
    stage-not just any kiss-but passionately for almost 30 seconds while rolling on the floor.

  • Robin Williams, Mandy Moore, and John Krasinski joking about "balls" in the face.

  • Seth Rogen telling Eva Mendez that he likes to impregnate women with his "Jew sperm." Eva Mendez replies, "I love Jew sperm!"

  • The worse lapse of judgment of the evening, awarding last year's Pirates II the award for Best Movie.
This year I will rest from any further "dissection" of the MTV Movie Awards. I think that the first 10 minutes of the awards speak louder than anything that I could possibly write.

Our kids are watching this.

The people on this show are their role models; either Amy Winehouse singing about rehab, or Lindsey Lohan missing the awards because of it.

And you wonder why so many books are being written about hurting kids.

So how do we respond? How do we not respond? Why even pay attention to the MTV Movie Awards?

Good questions. Allow me to address them while at the same time imploring you to carry out these three essential practices in your youth ministry.

I watch MTV twice a year for better understanding of who our kids are and what they are becoming. Staying current helps me know what messages kids are hearing and even opens doors to discussions about these messages.

When I hear kids talking about Rihanna, I know who they're talking about. When they're joking about the movie Borat, I have an understanding of what they saw.

If we start ranting to our kids about the "smut on MTV" they'll dismiss us in a second. I'm quick to tell youth workers and parents about what we've discussed above, but with kids I try to be a little shrewder. I try to do a lot more listening than talking. If they mention Kelly Clarkson's music video for her song Never Again, or Fergie's video for Glamorous, I have thought through questions that I can ask them about the videos.

The questions I ask church kids are different than the ones I ask unchurched kids. With unchurched kids I might use discussions like the Linkin Park discussion guide we recently put on our site that inquires about forgiveness and opens the door to talk about the "new start" that Jesus offers us. With church kids I might be a little more assertive and ask them how they decide what to allow in their iPods or on their TV screen. Even then I don't close doors by barking out condemnation. I listen, taking careful note of their opinions. This understanding will help me as I choose my curriculum, small group material and discipleship material that I use with these students.

After watching the MTV Movie Awards this week, my first reaction was despair. I'm far from a spiritual giant, but the dark cloud that hung in the room after the show Sunday night forced me to my knees. I needed God so I turned to Him.

We need to remember to turn this over to Him. Sometimes I'm too quick to click on the Billboard charts or the youth culture website... but slow to talk to the creator of the universe.

Carve out a time. Set your alarm 10 minutes early, go into your closet and pray.

Jesus was one of the best living examples of one who mingled with sinners. And Jesus was also a incredible example of someone who constantly sought out time alone to just pray and refuel. If he needed it, I'm sure we do too.

Pray for our students. Pray for wisdom as we help kids see the truth in a sea of lies.

These three practices won't solve all your problems or turn you into the next Walt Mueller, but they may just provide you with a little help and encouragement as you strive to reach out to kids in a relevant way with the God's truth.

So I guess this Fall it's back to the proverbial jr. high locker room one final time in 2007 as I peek through MTV's window once again for their VMA's.

Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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