The old saying goes, “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” The picture of the magazine cover you see below is worth a thousand times that. If you work with kids, parent kids, minister to kids, love kids. . . . you need to “read” this picture. Then, you need to talk about it. I think this photo – more than any other I’ve seen in a long time – captures the essence and reality of today’s youth culture.

If you’re in youth ministry, don’t plan anything for this week’s gathering. Instead, put the photo up on the big screen. Get into some small groups. Then, have your students discuss these questions:

– Does this picture make any suggestions on how to think, talk, act, or live?

– What does the picture say about the way the world is?

– What does this picture say about the way the world ought to be?

– Is there right and wrong?

– What’s portrayed as right?

– What’s portrayed as wrong?

– What do the Scriptures say about the values, attitudes, and behaviors portrayed in this picture?

– How does God call us to live out His Kingdom priorities in the midst of the world depicted in this photo?

9 thoughts on “1,000,000 words. . . . . .

  1. this picture definitely shows how open our culture is to teen pregnancy. Here she is being a role model for our young teens but do we want her to be a role model?
    Probably not.

  2. “Being a mom is the best feeling in the world!” Sure, it’s a great feeling when you’re hair is just so, the baby’s sleeping and you’re going to be paid big bucks to show the pearly whites. How about a dose of reality and show a teen mom’s loneliness, worry, and lack of choices. It’s not hard to love a baby, but raising a child to adulthood is the toughest job I’ve ever done. I would love to see a mag cover that shows a teen mom–frazzled, tired, and confused with the caption “Being a mom is the hardest job in the world! I’d rather be a Marine!”

  3. Walt, thanks for your post here. It inspired me to have my parents and youth workers read your blog frequently as well as the resources on the CPYU site, thanks for your important ministry. I am praying for you all. Keep at it.

    Ben Kendrew

  4. Carime, why does a tabloid cover say anything at all about “our culture”?

    Tabloid covers only make a statement about the type of people that buy tabloids.

    Is “OK” magazine the primary indicator of youth morality in this country? Does it set trends? Or does it feed the appetite of a sad group of people who watch Entertainment Tonight, and follow Celebrity news with more ferver than the economy, or politics, or their own spiritual growth?

    Walt, what point is it that you are trying to make? That Ms. Spears is doing the youth of America a disservice by giving this interview? Or is this a point you are trying to make about tabloid journalism? Either I missed your point or you didn’t make one. (I won’t rule out the former, but I’m leaning towards the latter)

  5. Chris – thanks for your comment. Remember, all cultural serves as a map and a mirror. You’ve already tapped into our celebrity obsession and how this cover mirrors it. That’s definitely something worth processing, talking about, and addressing with kids. The cover also mirrors – in powerful ways – our shifting views on love, marriage, sex, parenting. While Jamie Lynn should be applauded for choosing the high road and keeping her baby, this is still not “the best”. . . . “the best” being God’s order and design. . . . which we continue to get away from in most every way. So, when you’ve got little kids idolizing Jamie Lynn and looking to her as a role model. . . . in a cultural context of what Chap Clark calls “systemic abandonment,” especially at the level of family life and relationships. . . . this cover and what it speaks offers us insight into the map our kids are given to follow.

    Chris, in the end, my point is we and the kids we serve learn to think critically and Christianly about all that we see and hear in the world. . . and that we respond to what we see and hear in a way that reflects salt and light living.

    By the way, you mentioned that tabloid covers only make statements about the type of people that buy tabloids. In many ways that’s true. Are you aware that the most popular genre of magazine among teens and pre-teens are celebrity weeklies. . . including OK!? For that reason, we should be looking at, reading, and interpeting this stuff so that we can respond in our ministries in prophetic, preventive, and redemptive ways.


  6. Again, while I would not argue your last point on tabloid demographics, the point I wanted to make is that pre-teens and teens aren’t flush with expendable income. But their parents are…

    I’m extremely hesitant to throw labels around and attach them to a teenage girl, now doing her best to raise a child than I am to throw labels onto parents who helped the pre-teen tabloid industry become as strong as you say it is.

    Lets consider your first point though. all cultural serves as a map and a mirror. I don’t agree with this statement. I’ve seen culture defined as: the way of life for an entire society. I’m a part of this culture, and yet it says nothing about me. The cover fails to illustrate my disdain for tabloid journalism. Therefore it clearly doesn’t represent everyone! Its a generalization to make the claim you made.

    Lets be clear, this cover represents the culture of those that value that information. Nothing more, nothing less.

    It’s easy to make the jump to how decrepit “our culture” is by using mass media as your primary indicator. It’s a false premise, as there is a far greater segment of society that doesn’t even notice it exists. But there is no market or media to tell us THAT!

    The world isn’t always the craphole we want to assume it is because of all the tripe we see on television. I believe in the masses of good people out there that are mostly just living their lives, completely oblivious to the fact the Jamie Lynn Spears had a child out of wedlock. I’ve got enough to do tending to my own flock without worrying about whether there is shifting views on love on the aggregate of our population. I can’t affect change on the aggregate but I can on my own kids. I have no choice but to rely on others to do the same. Getting all worked up about issues like this is a waste of emotional effort that could best be applied elsewhere.

  7. Chris – I would respectfully disagrfee with your analysis of culture and your understandings of the function of culture. I will grant you that while there are elements of mass culture that reflect “nothing” about you, your response regarding the culture at large indicates that you are a part of a culture that has chosen to care for one’s own, without caring for others who may have been influenced in more negative ways by the culture. And, while there are many who are oblivious to Jamie Lynn’s situation, her life reflects growing cultural trends and the realities that are part of other young lives. . . . even if those others have no idea who Jamie Lynn Spears is. By the way, the statement I made was not a generalization about everyone, but a statement about macro cultural shifts. I would encourage you to be aware of cultural shifts as these will, in fact, influence your kids at some level. My point is not that we label things and negative, troubling, or bad, and then walk on. Rather, we must intelligently see it for what it is, and then respond in a manner that is prophetic, preventive, and redemptive. . . .and all to the glory of God.

  8. Walt…thanks for your words and challenge. I am planning on using this tonight in our senior high small group.

    We have to understand that many students today DO NOT understand how to critically think about the culture that they are immersed in. They, along with their parents and many of us, are willing to live within a life that has many compromises and spheres. There is the family sphere, church sphere, school sphere, friend sphere, online sphere…etc. When these worlds collide…it’s almost NUCLEAR!

    We have to teach our children (and students if we are in youth ministry) how to THINK and how to apply God’s Word to EVERY area of their lives…not just where we want to apply it. God has the BEST for us in every area of our lives…he wants to redeem ALL of who we are, not just the church part.

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