"I can't wear a pink shirt to work-- everyone else wears white shirts. I'm not popular enough to be different!" --Homer Simpson

The world teaches us that there are some skills it's okay to brag about, and others that are better kept quiet. Sports heoroes can talk all they want about their game and their skills and their behavior off the field, but a kid who can sort out a Rubik's cube in under ten seconds will probably not have a place in the school's trophy case. Race car drivers and professional gamblers and successful business owners are almost expected to be in the public eye. People with normal lives, though, should probably stick to the shadows.

One of my top three peeves is that this even happens in the Christian world. We respect and honor the superstars of ministry, but often forget that untelevised stories are just as faithful and just as important.

One of the powers of the Internet is connecting people with sideline interests to other people who think those things are interesting and cool. With video cameras in so many hands, it's been only a matter of time until the Internet adapted to make everyone a video star.

I'm talking about YouTube, a free site where users can upload and watch videos from all around the world. Everything from homemade music videos to video diaries to, yes, even the kid with the Rubik's cube is hosted on YouTube, and it's an important resource for youth ministers to know about, in the same way it's important for us to be aware of and competent at MySpace.

I first found out about YouTube when reading other youth workers' blogs. The authors would often post videos, usually humorous ones, to their sites and link back to the source. After seeing several clips, I followed the links and found the original site.

The main benefit of YouTube is that it gives the people who post the chance to share their lives and their talents freely. They're not fighting celebrities or trying to live up to whatever image is set by the influencers in school and at home. The site also gives the people who watch a chance to find out what real life is like for some real people. Surfing through YouTube, I've found videos of skateboarding tricks, cheerleading routines, dancing, adorable infants, and tributes to favorite movies, shows, musicians and celebrities.

There are a few dark sides to the site. While many users (probably unconsciously) follow fair use guidelines, there is an awful lot of copyrighted material included in these videos. Often, the clips are used in remixes or as a backdrop to the main subject of the video, but I've also frequently found videos that are just lifted from TV or the computer and reposted whole. Like MySpace, the site is filtered by a combination of staff and reader feedback, and a fair amount of explicit material slips through the cracks. Because the Internet seems to promise anonymity, posters sometimes include videos that show vandalism, underage drinking, and hint at drug use. YouTube may be a potent source of affirmation, but it is also not a completely healthy place.

With these few notes, my recommendation is that we as youth ministers be aware of the site and its attraction for our students, and then look for ways we can, within the safety of our own communities, offer some of the same exposure and praise for the unique talents that live in our groups.

And now a few videos.

"This is my _______ face" (little boy making funny faces)
Rubik's Cube in 25 secs.
And once more, but with one hand.
A song, a guitar, a personal revelation.
Guy jumping into a snowbank

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