10 Effective Responses to Youth Culture

Youth culture is a force to be reckoned with.

It can be really intimidating. Parents and Youth workers sometimes get overwhelmed. Where do we start? Here are 10 effective ways to use what we know about youth culture to move students closer to Christ.

1. Friendship factor: Friends have the greatest impact on the lives of teens, teens must reach teens and we who work with youth must be considered friends. This way we will much greater impact in their lives and they will impact each other.

2. We must see youth as members of a friendship cluster -it explains much of their behavior. All studies point to the fact that teens don’t need a dozens of friends. They identify best with a small group of 4 or 5. If we can win over this “cluster” we can impact each member deeply.

3. Attendance: Church attendance does make a difference in the attitudes and practices of youth. Low attenders are at serious risk. This is very clear in the research done by Dr. Reginald Bibby. Students who attend every week do much better than students who don’t. We need to make sure that parents buy in to the every work attendance value!

4. Parents need help to understand their teens world we need to be an advocate for youth and a mediator in family conflicts. The youth workers role in this culture involves work with parents to be effective. What a powerful combination when we work with parents to see students grow.

5. We should not assume that churched youth have a Christian worldview –we need to help them develop one. Students are more informed by the culture than they are by the scripture. The only way to know what students believe is allowing them to speak. We can try to convince them by speaking to them but there’s no way to know what they believe unless we hear from them. (Being in church doesn’t make them a Christian any more than watching a movie makes them an actor.)

6. Restraint: Teens need to know that not everyone is doing it –they need a clear message on abstinence and control. We also need to get beyond them thinking that there is only one rule “you can’t go all the way.” This kind of thinking frees students up to do ever other sexual activity beside intercourse. If they know that 50 percent of students are not sexually active and they know that sexual immorality includes a number of activities they are more likely to be able to abstain.

7. Reality: We need to prepare teens for the reality of the future. The church must be sensitive to teen stress, anxiety and burnout. Students are at stage where they think idealistically. It is one of the reasons why they criticize their parents and the church. We don’t want to discourage students about church, life, and the future but we are not serving them well to paint a false rosy picture for them.

8. We must address the concerns that they face if we hope to catch their interest. We should begin our talks with their world and then bring them into the bible for the solutions. This takes work knowing the world of teens, by spending time in it and from knowing the Bible by spending time in it.

9. Today’s teens are still open to Spiritual things –we must reach them while there is time. They may call themselves “spiritual not religious” (SNR) Let’s see this as an opportunity instead of a threat. They have an inkling that the truth is out there… let’s introduce them to Him!

10. Diversity: If we learn anything from culture at all we learn that not all teens are the same. We must always be sensitive to different tastes and personal issues. Youth leaders must know their members.

Try One of These This Month

Culture isn’t just about the latest song, movie or drug. The broader strokes that affect each student can be addressed. Why don’t you make one of the items a project each month this year. Focus on it. Discuss it with your leaders and your parents. Address it in your programming and repeat the same process on another area next month.

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Ron Powell

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Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com

4 Comments

  1. Ron, This is yet another terrific article. As a guidance counsellor in a secondary school for years, I was in a position to hear lots of things from teenagers. Many of these youth would declare themselves as unique from the others. Some would point out to me how different they were from their peers; yet, they would be wearing the same branding clothes that I just saw on the previous student. The key here is that they felt different; yet, were wanting to be part of a group. They simply wanted to fit in. Sometimes, I would here, more particularly from the girls, and sometimes from the boys, that “everybody was doing it.” They were referring to sex and “coming across” in their language. There is this perception—media impact on youth— that you are not cool, not in, if you weren’t having sex. I would often speak of this with youth that it wasn’t true—that it is a myth created by media. Even in a secular environment, I could speak about this issue. It is absolutely important that we clear up this myth—that everybody is doing—because it simply isn’t true. By being clear, it helps youth to make a decision that is not influenced by the desire to be a part of the crowd. Thank you, Ron, for being open. It helps to give permission to talk about morality openly. Youth need these opportunities to speak and be heard. Wayne Townsend http://www.intelligentleaders.ca

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