I am a student of pop culture, both for the purpose of this blog and because I personally find it fascinating. One of the things I often hear from people who read this blog is that they don’t have the time to follow teen pop culture. When things become busy in your ministry, paying attention to what’s going on in the popular culture of our teens can be one of the first things put by the wayside. I can only imagine how difficult it is for those who are volunteers in youth ministry, regardless of how passionate they are, to find the time to connect to the specific popular culture of our teens. I can sympathize with how hard it can be to keep up with the newest and greatest things interesting our teens. I am also a firm believer that awareness and understanding of pop culture helps to develop stronger relationships with teens, better connections between Scripture and everyday life, and helps equip teens to speak God’s Word to their peers.

At the same time, I realize that every teen and every youth group lives in a slightly different cultural world. I find that the things my youth are interested in are vastly different than other parts of Chicago, Illinois, and the nation. One of the limitations of this blog is that I am unable to discuss the specifics of what your teens in your youth group are watching, listening to, and interacting with on a daily basis. I can only talk about the broader strokes of pop culture which may or may not be affecting your youth.

To these points, I have developed a short list of ways you can quickly and efficiently see into your teens’ cultural world. They may not give you a comprehensive understanding of culture, but for most youth leaders it will give you the basic information you need. I present…

5 Quickest Ways to Know What Pop Culture is Influencing Your Teen’s Life

1)     The Ipod Switch

Next youth event, as your students are mingling and being social, bring your iPod. Ask other students who have their iPod on them to switch with you for a few minutes. You can also just ask to borrow their iPod if you don’t have one. Slide over the menus and look at the playlist of the top 25 songs played. (This is a default playlist every iPod has.) Take note of what artists and songs they are playing the most. The added benefit of the iPod switch is that teens can sample some of your music and perhaps get excited about uplifting and edifying music they haven’t heard before.

2)    The T-Shirt Test

Check out the band name/movie logo/TV star/fictional character that is on the t-shirts your students wear. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that if they buy and wear a t-shirt with something on it, it’s significant to them in some way. If you don’t know or understand what’s on the shirt, ask them to tell you about it.

3)    The Magazine Rack to People.com Maneuver

You are bored in the check-out line at the grocery store. It is the perfect time to see what’s going on in pop culture. Take a look at the headlines on the celebrity magazines. Take note of names that you see, especially ones you don’t recognize. When you get home (and put the groceries away), pull up People.com. On the top you will find a link to Celebs. There you will find a listing of celebrities is alphabetical order. The great thing about this database is that it gives you not only biographical information, but 5 Fun Facts about the person and links to the top news stories connected to them. Now you know who your kids are hearing about and paying attention to.

4)    The Facebook Skim

If you friend your teens on Facebook, pick one or two profiles at random and read their recent activity. It should only take you a few minutes, but it is incredibly insightful into what’s going on with them at that moment. I find this is not only helpful in seeing their interests and influences, but it also keeps you up to date on relationships, friendships, and how they are feeling about life in general.

5)    The IMDB List Topper

IMDB.com is an incredibly helpful site to help you remember who starred in that one TV show in the 70s. It’s also helpful in telling you what movies are big at the theater and what TV shows are the highest rated. It can give you helpful insight into the TV shows your teens are watching, often giving you short paragraphs recapping the latest episodes of popular shows. This is a great site to give you specific information about TV and Movies.

Bonus Idea: Read this Blog and Comment!

I will insert my shameless plug here. When you don’t have time to keep up with the ever changing parade of teen celebrities or latest cultural trends, I will do my very best to keep you informed. I take my work on this blog very seriously, and I hope that you find it helpful to you. If you ever have questions or ideas you would like for me to discuss on this blog, please feel free to contact me or comment below. I want this blog to be helpful to all who serve God by helping teens grow in faith. I’d love your input to be able to better assist you in ministry.