Sunday, October 2, 2011

Best Kept Secret - Spread the Word!

It is embarrassing how long it is taking me to sift through, transcribe, and post my interviews from my incredible week in Atlanta. If money were no object, I'd find some sort of recorder that converted words to text so it wasn't so time-consuming. But the good thing about the time spent transcribing each interview is the opportunity to once again experience each conversation.

I am especially excited to share this interview and spread the word about an incredible website for Christian teens. Author Deborah Raney became a sweet friend when I met her in Dallas in 2009, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet her husband, Ken, and learn about his ministry. The three of us enjoyed dinner together one evening then found a quiet spot for a double interview. It still makes me smile as I think about it.

Deb had told me about Clash Entertainment when we first met and I told my girl about it, but listening to Ken share and hearing his heart and philosophy behind this ministry absolutely blessed me. Please read this and share it with every teen and youth ministry leader you know!

Why the name Clash? Is this because teens clash so much with adults?!

Actually, I was looking for a name that would be kind of catchy that teenagers could relate to but I also was interested in the concept where, in Ephesians 6, it says we struggle not against flesh and blood enemies but against powers, principalities, etc., so the name Clash came up because it’s a struggle or a battle.

Tell me about the website in general and what’s there.

Clash Entertainment is an entertainment website for Christian teenagers and we basically report on and we have reviews and interviews for Christian media; that would include books, movies, music, and games. We do review mainstream movies, especially the ones that appeal to teenagers, such as when Ironman came out. We don’t review movies that we don’t think teenagers are going to be interested in per se. The books we review are the Young Adult (YA) novels. We do have reviews of some adult novels we think the teens are going to be interested in.

Are you reviewing YA Christian novels o r YA mainstream novels?

We do a little bit of both. I have two sources that supply me with reviews. One reviews Christian YA novels and the other one reviews mainstream secular YA novels, but from a Christian worldview. The games are all over the board. For the most part, the company I use doesn’t review the ones with a M rating, although there have been a couple.

Are they adults reviewing them or teens?

It’s all adults. Occasionally I’ve had teenagers contributing some music reviews, some game reviews, some fashion stuff, but it’s mostly adults. There are a lot of adults out there who have a passion for teens and do this type of thing. I’d love to have more teens, but the problem is that pretty soon they become adults and I have to keep finding new ones! One of the things we’ve offered them is that I’ve got a pretty good editor. (He grins at his understatement of his award-winning wife’s capabilities!) If they write for us, we tell them that Deborah Raney will edit your material and help you become a better writer. So we send it back to them marked up. (Deb interjects, “I red-ink them!”)

There are some other Christian review websites that are super conservative. That’s one thing my girl has liked about yours, that you’re not quite so ultra-conservative. What is your philosophy? How do you strike a balance of “in the world, not of the world” and giving teens healthy boundaries without everything being a gasp and a no?

That has been an issue. I’ve gotten letters and comments from (I’m assuming) adults who are not happy with some things that we’ve done. I spoke with a youth pastor before I started the site. He told me that there’s a very well-known reviewing site about which he said, “I find it worthless because everything’s bad. It may be bad, but the kids are watching those movies. I would much rather tell them the truth and let them decide for themselves than say ‘everything’s bad and don’t watch anything’ because they’re going to go anyway.” That’s kinda the attitude I’ve taken. I tell them, “If you’re going to watch Ironman, you’re going to have a lot of fun. You’re going to enjoy it; there are a lot of neat special effects and a lot of cool stuff. But this is in there also. So we try to let them kinow and have them informed. We’ve had a few people get upset with us. But I’d rather treat the kids more as adults than look down at them.

One thing I struggle with: there are some things that are out there that I don’t really want to promote. So if I feel like that we just won’t put it on there. For example, there’s a lot of heavy metal Christian music, and I just don’t appreciate. It just bugs me! But I know it’s very popular. So if I’ve heard of them and I know a little bit about them, I go to their website. If I see that they honor Christ on their website, I’ll post it. But if I go to their website and I just see a lot of stuff about music and I don’t see anything about Jesus, then I won’t promote that. I’ve been very impressed with a lot of the hip-hop Black Christian music. I’ve been very impressed with their testimonies. Never heard of these people, can’t say I’m a big fan of their music. But reading what they’re saying and why they’re doing their music, I’m thinking, “praise the Lord and amen for these people!” If they’re doing that, I’m trying to encourage teenagers to check it out.

Deborah interjects: Can I jump in and say one thing? His philosophy with raising our kids was always: When they got to a certain age and wanted to do something, he would say – and I didn’t always like this very much, but I think it was a good thing – “you know what Mom and I believe about that, and you know what God’s Word says about it, but you’re a big boy (or a big girl) now, and this decision is going to have to be between you and the Lord.” Most of the time, our kids made the right decision, given those parameters.

The internet is blamed, rightly so, for a lot of negative behaviors among teens. Some folks might just say toss it. How can it be used for good?

It’s just like anything else; it’s a tool. There are good things on the internet. For parents, let’s just be honest: if your kid’s going to school, they’re seeing things you don’t approve of. They’re hearing stuff you don’t approve of. A lot of that is the same way on the internet. The best thing is to raise them up right when they’re younger. Our function at Clash is two-fold. One is to offer an alternative to the world’s media. Our daughter liked People magazine and celebrity stuff, which is pretty trashy and pretty vacuous. We’re not celebrity-based at all but we try report on people who are Christians, like the movie Soul Surfer and Bethany Hamilton. She became pretty famous from that so we had a lot about her life and about the movie. And Tim Tebow in football – we had some articles about sports figures who are Christians and taking a stand for the Lord. So we try to show there are people who are Christians in the news or the limelight or whatever. If you like games, there are some Christian games but they are few and far between and from what I understand they’re not very good. We try to let people know about them. We’re trying to raise the standard so that the Christian games will be as good as or better than what the world does. Movies are the same way. Soul Surfer was a good step. Blind Side wasn’t a Christian movie per se, but those familiar with it know it was a Christian family but those are positive steps – a well-made movie with positive depictions. We’re trying to encourage more of those kind of movies with that kind of quality.

So is Clash part of a media company or a private thing?

Clash Entertainment is essentially a ministry right now. It actually costs me money every month to keep it going because I pay some of the contributors and of course, I paid to get it built. It’s never made any money. I felt like the Lord instructed me to do this, and He hasn’t told me to stop. So I’m going to keep going as long as I can. I don’t get to put as many hours into it as I’d like to. I freelance for a media group for other work but that’s separate.

What is the best way to promote Clash?

That’s a good question. I felt from the beginning that if we could get out the word to youth leaders and teenagers themselves and they went to the site, they’d like it and tell their friends. The first day the numbers were up but it’s never hit that again. All I can figure is that right now, the allure of the world’s media is so strong and Christian media has not been very good, so there’s no real reason or atraction to keep up on that. But the thing is, I’m convinced that most people, let alone teenagers, are unaware of a lot of the Christian media that’s available. There’s some really good music that’s every bit as good as the world’s music. The stuff that the Christian musicians are doing now is very, very good. Books are there. A lot of teenagers like fantasy; there are a lot of really good fantasy authors in the Christian market. Gaming industy’s not quite there yet. Movies are coming up, but they’re not making movies for teenagers per se. So there are still some gaps, but there’s a lot of stuff they’re not even aware is available. I’d venture to say that most Christian teenagers don’t even know all the Young Adult authors who are working out there. We were hoping to be an outlet for that. And I’ve had to turn advertisers away. All the publishers have contacted me saying, “This looks like a great idea” and I’ve had to say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have enough people coming to my site to charge you any money. But I’ll put your ads on for free!” And I’ve done that. So like I say, it’s ministry. So the best way to promote it, I think, is keep talking about it.

Well, I know it’s in my girl’s Favorites, and I was checking her computer for something, and it was in her History. Is there a logo I could put on my blog?

That would be great. If you go to our FAQ, there are several choices of logos.

What else can you tell me about the site?

There are two things we haven’t talked that I think teenagers and youth leaders will find very important.

We have a career section. Mostly, that contains interviews with Christians in the work force. We have a canned set of questions we send out. We have farmers, architects, a B-2 stealth bomber pilot, a lot of film makers, a lot of graphic designers, authors, illustrators, teachers, homemakers, small business owners, all kinds of jobs. The questions are things like What kind of education did you have to have to get your job? What’s a typical day at work like? What do you really love about your job? What one part of your job would you really like to have someone else do? How does your job allow you to use your God-given talents? And the last question is Do you have any hobbies or things that you do that you think teenagers would be interested in? We get a lot of people who, for example, teach school all day and then write novels in the evenings. So they get to cover that. We’ve got—I don’t know how many—maybe 100 interviews on there, so a teenager who is interested in a certain career goes to the Career tab and types in that career and it pulls up those interviews.

The other thing we started is Verse of the Day. I get several verses of the day in my email and it’s just text. I thought, “Let’s put a pretty picture on there.” I thought I’d link to one but I couldn’t find one so I made my own. So we have Verse of the Day which is a photograph with a Scripture on top of it. We’re actually going through Psalms this year, and it might take more than a year to go through Psalms! We just have a different verse each day with a pretty picture, and we invite teenagers to submit photos. We don’t take every picture, but if they send good pictures we’ll put them up there and they get credit with their age. The photos are all God’s creation. We try not to show any signs of man. What we did recently was make it a different website. It’s still on Clash, but we also made it a different website so it can be found with search engines. I bet I’ve had half a dozen teenagers submit pictures and have them published. We have one young man now from Scotland, 17 years old, and this guy’s talented! We’ve run a lot of his pictures. He’s very talented; I think he’s going to go somewhere in photography or film-making or something like that.

We also change the header on the website every week, and teenagers can submit one of those. We have a template they have to use, but there are lots of opportunities for teens to do things, through design, reviews, photography, etc.

Thank you so much, Ken! I loved learning more about this!

Readers, my girl refers to this site often. She really likes their balanced movie reviews. She also submitted a book review that was published on the site, and she was able to get some great information from the career tab about a young woman that is a missionary who majored in music, the exact career combination my girl is interested in! So we heartily endorse the site.

Folks, I urge you to take a peek at this website and share it with any teens you know as well as the youth leadership at your church and any other organizations that impact teens. The career info would be a great thing for Christian school counselors to know! Post the button on your blog and share it on Facebook and let's help spread the word!

BTW, you don't have to be a teen to subscribe to the Verse of the Day! I love getting it in my inbox every morning! You can see today's verse and subscribe here.


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