...because we instantly correlate it with irresponsible, self-absorbed, mindless lemmings. But, really, is this all we can rationally expect from these that will be the motor of society in a matter of a few years?
I read this article the other day at our prayer meeting and HAD to share it! How many times have I had this conversation? The low standards we hold for our teens is absolutely hideous. Let's change this.
Do Hard Things movement that the Harris brothers are pursuing, and for wonderful youth pastors like our own Ryan and Megan Lynn who challenge teens to transition into adulthood as responsible, deep-thinking souls. Well done. Let's have this same mind as we raise our own children.
Rebuilding the Foundations
John Stonestreet, Executive Director at Summit Ministries
As parents, teachers, and mentors we spend a lot of time worrying whether Christian students like church, or whether they think of Jesus as their best friend, or whether they know the proper way to behave in various situations. This is understandable, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the emerging generation is not willing to accept or defend the important values that Christianity espouses. Why is this the case?
Dr. Christian Smith, professor of sociology at Notre Dame, has spent much of the last decade researching teens and young adults. His conclusion about the emerging generation is simple: many young people are relativists. In other words, while they may hold strong personal convictions about moral issues, they ultimately "view morality as a personal,relative affair." Is this the good news or the bad news?
My experience working with Christian students suggests that Smith is right. I often hear students describe their personal commitments to Christ, while clearly not understanding the implication of a Biblical worldview and its demands on their life and commitments.
How is it that students so deeply engrossed in church culture and with more access to the Bible, Christian literature, youth programs, and other resources than any generation that has lived since the founding of the church, can be so confused about what Christianity actually is and why it matters?
THE DISTRACTION FACTOR
The age of information presents two unique challenges to this generation of students. First, they encounter daily an overwhelming amount of information. Students today swim in a deluge of information. Of course, information isn't neutral; it contains argues or embodies ideas. So even if students have heard the truth, there is often an inability to find it amidst all the noise and distraction.
Second, they experience this information, with the inherent ideas, differently than previous generations. Information today (especially via the internet) comes without context, without a clear source, and often without supporting arguments. This creates a crisis of authority and trust.
Third, addiction to entertainment has destroyed their ability to think and prioritize. Many students' lives are full of the trivial. They care about irrelevant things, and ignore what is actually important. Unfortunately, the Christian community often responds by heaping "Christian" noise on the rest of the noise. Attempting to be "relevant" to students, we often contribute to their appetites for distraction.
Students must be given the foundation of discernment upon which to build their lives. ONly with discernment can they hold on to the true and important in a culture of lies and triviality.
THE GRIP OF ADOLESCENCE
In virtually every other culture in the history of the world prior to late 20th century Western culture, kids became adults. Not anymore. Now, they become teenagers or, as we call them, adolescents. But it's not working.
Despite its rather recent history, adolescence goes largely unquestioned. It is fully expected that students will lose their minds from ages 13-18. "Kids will be kids," we say. Only, we aren't referring to kids, we are talking about those who buy, vote, and drive automobiles.
Further, the grip of adolescence continues to forcefully expand. On the front end, we now talk about "pre-teens." On the back end, whereas eighteen was once considered the end of adolescence, it is now the middle. Adolescence now refers to ages 11 to 30.
But, that's not all. Adolescence is now, and this must not be missed, the goal of our culture. Somewhere along the way, we ceased to be a culture where kids aspire to be adults and became a culture where adults aspire to be kids.
Often, our approaches to students sanctify adolescence. Teenagers have the capacity to think deeply and broadly about their culture, confront evil and injustice, and champion the truth. We've learned at Summit Ministries that students love to be challenged and will rise to embrace a strong vision for lie and impact.
THE CULTURAL IDENTITY CRISIS
There are central battlegrounds of worldviews in every culture: Darwinism in the late 1800's, the reliability of Scripture in the early to mid 20th century, and truth in the late 20th century. While these issues are still very important, most of the contemporary worldview battles are rooted in a basic disagreement of what it means to be and live as human.
Today's students enter a world of runaway biotechnology, postmodern social constructions of gender, virtual online identities, family redefinition, distorted understandings of beauty, and multiple sexual orientations, each of which fundamentally challenge our concept of humanness. Further, a culture in which atheistic Darwinism is embedded, Scripture is trivialized, and truth relativized leaves few stable resources to assist students in negotiating this corporate identity crisis.
At the same time, clear teaching on what it means to be human (i.e. imago dei) is largely neglected in the church, which renders Christian students incapable of confronting key cultural battles of our day. In fact, they are often susceptible to the lies that have taken the culture captive.
THE BATTLE FOR DEFINITIONS
The battle of ideas is the battle over definitions. Assuming either that our prized definitions do not need to be clarified and defended carefully to this generation is a mistake with significant consequence. Among the more crucial words needing careful definition today include God, human, truth, faith, Gospel, Kingdom, evil, tolerance, male, female, pro-life, justice, poverty, marriage, family, freedom, rights, responsibility, and the good life.
The students that I work with often don't understand the issues that many think are of vital importance to our faith and culture. It is vital that we give reasons why we take the stands we take. Also students need to be challenged to defend their own positions. ASking students, "What do you mean by that?" is a way to help them think more carefully and create profitable dialogue.
REBUILDING THE FOUNDATIONS
Perhaps you have heard that young Christians are abandoning conservative beliefs in truth and Scripture, and aren't willing to take a stand on classic culture-war issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. If we are to expect them to take stands for truth, we must equip them to take stands for truth by rebuilding the foundations of not only what to believe but why to believe it and how to defend it.
John Stonestreet's passion is to illuminate a Biblical worldview for today's culture. He's a speaker, writer, cultural commentator, and collaborator of worldview initiatives for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview (www.breakpoint.org) and Summit Ministries(www.summit.org). You can find his daily one-minute worldview commentary on radio nationwide or online at www.thepintradio.org.