Keeping Teens Safe Contest

Posted on: 02/10/14 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee


It’s time for my first contest of 2014. I’ve got some great giveaways for youth workers this week: your choice of any one of my books, OR… a free registration to the Youth Specialties’ Team Training event, coming to another 8 cities across the US! (of which I’ll be teaching at 3)

Winning is simple. Just use my blog’s comment feature in this post to share your best “careless” story in no more than one paragraph. I’ll choose three winners at the end of the week: two book winners, and one Team Training registration. But first… let me explain “careless.”

Last weekend over 300 Atlanta youth workers gathered together to be trained, encouraged and equipped at one of the YS Team Training events. I had the privilege of teaching several sessions, including the “Keeping Teens Safe” session. I was a little apprehensive going into the training, because, let’s be honest—who wants to talk about “safety”? But interestingly enough, I received more positive feedback from that session than anything we did that weekend.

During the session I told multiple stories from my two decades in youth ministry, revealing shortsighted decisions with dire consequences. People really related (I guess I wasn’t the only one present who had made foolish decisions). Some of these moments I shared were funny, in hindsight, but other moments, like kids being life-lighted to the hospital in a helicopter… not so funny.

What about you? What decisions have you made in the past, that not only would you do differently, but resulted in unforeseen consequences?

HOW TO ENTER: Use my blog’s comment feature to…

  1. Share your full name and your city.
  2. Share what prize you want if you win: which one of my books, or which one of the upcoming Team Training locations you’d like to attend.
  3. Share your one paragraph story (keep it succinct) of a shortsighted or careless decision you made in youth ministry and its unforeseen consequences.

I’ll Tweet the winner later this week, and display it in this post!

Thank you for all the entries! My team just selected the winners. Here they are:

TEAM TRAINING PRIZE– Bryan Murawski for his story about almost killing his brother with a goldfish. Yes… probably not a good idea. (That’s the second time I’ve heard of that happening.)

BOOK PRIZE– Nic Ferguson for his simple story about a game gone wrong. He had me at “hard to remove especially with all the cuts and blood and what not.”

BOOK PRIZE– Rachel Blom for her story of losing a kid without knowing it and leaving her in the woods to die a horrible death! Yes, headcount is important.

Nic and Rachel- pop on my book page and let me know which you’d like me to send you.

Good lessons learned! Congrats winners!

12 Replies to “Keeping Teens Safe Contest”

  1. My name is Bryan Murawski. I’m from Little Egg Harbor, NJ. I’d love a Team Training Registration if I win, which I should, since I almost killed my brother. I was an intern and was tasked to run an activity. The last game in our activity was a contest to see who would be willing to swallow a live goldfish for 50,000 points. My younger brother was the only one willing to do it. He got 50,000 points, second place in the activity, and a trip to the hospital with salmonella from the goldfish, which infected his appendix, which leaked toxins in his body, poisoning him for weeks and nearly killing him. The doctor’s advice? “This is why college kids wash it down with alcohol. It kills the salmonella.” (For the record, I avoided taking that advice at the next activity)

  2. Anthony Livoti here, Youth Director in Gaithersburg, MD. Winning a team training would be spectacular. I’m actually really ashamed to admit this, but here goes anyway.

    I was working as an intern for a youth pastor in Indiana, when I was in college. The youth pastor sent me with the church van full of kids off to our winter retreat.
    Mistake number “all of them” reside in the sentence above.
    Winter retreats mean that it’s cold. Really cold. What’s even worse is that it was precipitating freezing rain. Sure, it’s probably a good idea to send the college kid with Wanda (Oh yeah, the van’s name was Wanda) full of 13 kids out onto the icy back roads in middle of nowhere Indiana. And, like the college kid I was, I saw no harm in this. I was just “going to drive carefully” and everything would be fine.

    Except I had driven Wanda like, twice. And in the fall.

    Nobody died, so don’t worry.

    So, we were driving down the road, everyone is bouncing and singing… and we hit the black ice. Panic mode ensues, I slam the brakes, we spin. At least three times.

    When the moment of panic passes, and Wanda lies in the ditch on the side of the road (upright, Praise the Lord), a moment of silence occurs. Then… raucous laughter. Apparently spinning off the road into a ditch is hilarious to a bunch of teenagers. Fortunately (Praise the Lord again) there were two tow trucks behind us who collectively pulled us out of the ditch. Honest to goodness, the MILLISECOND we pile out of the van, someone screams “ANTHONY DROVE THE VAN OFF THE ROAD!!!!”

    Needless to say, there’s now a rule against college students driving the van at that Church.

  3. Nic Ferguson from Tulare, CA. Decided we were going to play a 3 legged tag game but needed to figure out away to connect the kids. Remembered we had a bunch of zip ties laying around so went with that. Somehow the biggest most athletic kid ends up tied to the most awkward kid and the next thing you know the athlete is dragging the other kid all around the room while the kid is screaming in pain. When I say dragging, I mean dragging. The awkward kid is on the ground just trying to scoot along the floor while the Athlete is trying to go beast mode all around the room. In the end, the zip tie kept getting tighter and tighter and was extremely difficult to remove especially with all the cuts and blood and whatnot.

  4. Kevin Downey – Chilliwack, BC, Canada
    prize – Should I just smash my kids phone

    It was my first paid youth pastor position. Every summer in Vancouver, they hold a fireworks competition downtown. I took my group of 15 down to watch the fireworks, along with about 250,000 other people. I let the students find their own place to watch the fireworks, but gave clear instructions to return to a designated spot when the show was over. At the end, everyone gathered except for two girls. We waited for a bit as the area cleared out. Still no girls. We walked the area for about 15 minutes, but still no girls. We headed back uptown to the transit where we had come into the city, but they weren’t there either. This is all in the days before everyone had a cell phone. I was in total panic mode and it was then that I called the parent of one of the girls, fearing that I would never find them. The parent of the girl informed me that the girls were with them, as they had decided that the fireworks were boring. They had gone to the home of one of the girls’ dad, who lived downtown, and he had taken them home.

  5. Troy Doubman
    Prize: Connect

    I took our youth group to an inner city church to do some major construction. We were using nail guns to nail up some 2 x 4s when one of my students sent a nail through two fingers and into a third. He quickly pulled out the nail out of fear. I told him he was fine. No Doctor, No Hospital, No call to his parents. Needless to say, I had one set of very upset parents.

  6. We have a few guys including my other adult volunteer that are very into hunting and fishing and larger pocket knives. This started out as the other adult leader just mentioning innocently enough that he was doing a business on the side of sharpening different types of knives. (pocket, kitchen, etc.) Then a couple of the guys started showing their knives at Youth Group. Then, on Super Bowl Sunday we had a party like many others did for the our Youth Group. Well, the guys showed up, all High School and one Middle School youth. Make a long story short the young adult male leader I’m mentoring was with the guys while I was taking care of host duties: food or cleaning. Apparently some type of threat was made by two high schoolers to a middle schooler-a knife might have been showed. So, I get a call the next evening from our Pastor about this. Ouch! Needless to say I had not been informed of what had occured by the young adult I’m mentoring.

    Book I’d want to win, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers.

  7. This entry may not qualify because there were no dire consequences. But I don’t think I’d do it again. I was a new youth minister at my first real church and was looking for good fellowship ideas in a rural East Texas town (Brashear, TX). So, I decided we’d all just get some .22 rifles to go shoot turtles at one of the students’ houses. He had a small pond in a wood line that was overrun with turtles, so I planned our youth fellowship event. It was “bring your own rifle.” There were about 5 to 10 of us on one side of the pond (usually) and every now and then, someone would raise a rifle and take a shot at a turtle who peeked his head up. Later, the kid who lived at the place where our activity was held went to his house and traded his .22 rifle for a .3030 and later a .270 (deer hunting rifles). Finally, he showed up with a 12-gauge shooting slugs. Toward the end, any time a turtle would surface, it was usually met with a barrage of gunfire from everyone present. And we often wouldn’t stop shooting until the clips were empty. Now, since all of those guys had grown up around guns, knew what they were doing, and never lost their heads, everything turned out okay. I shudder to think what could have happened if someone less experienced or less careful had been there.

    Ronnie Witt
    Minister of Youth/Education
    Emory, TX
    I’d like “The New Breed”

  8. I’m reading some of the stories here and I’m shuddering. Mine wasn’t that bad (or so I like to think!), but it was still a bleak moment. We were on a weekend retreat and the weather was nice (a bit of an oddity in The Netherlands where I’m from), so we decided to go for a night walk. Not everyone felt like going, so some students and leaders stayed behind. We had a nice walk, went a bit further than planned and so when we came back I sent everyone to bed right away. I did not count heads, I hadn’t counted when we left anyway. I went to sleep as well, only to wake up a few hours later because someone was banging on the door. Turns out one of our teens had gotten lost. Her shoelace came untied, she stopped to tie them and lost the group. She had no flash light, no phone, nothing and she was in the middle of very dark woods, about 2 miles from our camp. And I never even knew she was gone until she miraculously managed to find her way back. The poor kid…she was really brave about it, but I’ve never felt so guilty in my life. Needless to say I started doing head counts after that!

    Rachel Blom, Ballston Lake, NY
    Prize: ticket for the Team Training Event in Philadelphia 🙂

  9. I feel like I should win something instead of Bryan Murawski seeing as he almost killed me. Although he needs safety training more than I do.

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