Context: Leading In The Youth Setting
"The Teen Decade" (2013-2019). It only happens once a century. Seven years. Over the past five years, I have been asking for seven years of emphasis upon the youth culture. Will you be a part of it? There are only two years left. So here is a vision for the next two years.
Here is what we are asking for:
First, “cultural meaningfulness.” The process of communicating the Gospel in such a way as to make it meaningful to the people of any given cultural context. Contextualization has been defined so as to include socio-political involvement, incarnational lifestyle, application as over against exposition of the biblical text, and so on.
Contextualization is all about setting. Being able to understand and know what to do in a particular setting. This requires consistency, relationship, and study of a setting. Whether that is done through demographics or ethnographic's, cultural meaningfulness is required for youth ministry to be effective today! Here's what that looks like:
PRAX - Build relationships directly with teenagers | Ask them questions | Value their input | Nuetral site events versus Church site events | Office outside of the Church periodically
Second, "Social meaningfulness." God's sociologist's understand the times and know what to do about it. What are the social and cultural issues we should be aware of? It may be marriage and family, the sexual revolution, personal identity and our place in the world, or even the social media and entertainment sector. Who are the ICONS and the influencer's of this generation? Do we know who is speaking into the lives of teens today?
PRAX - Are we familiar with the musicians (Bieber, Perry, Gaga, or Dre), movie stars (Depp, Pitt, Washington, or Stewart), or social media (Zuckerberg, Gates, Daly, or Kimmel). There are so many people shaping the youth culture and we don't know anything about them. As youth leaders we must have an informed platform that speaks to the social role models of the world teens are growing up in. Are you praying for these Icons?
Third, "Religious meaningfulness." Where is the church? Have we lost our voice? There is such a great need for a revival in the church today. To bring back the voice of truth, wisdom, and respect. Of power, courage, and Godliness. To gain the leverage that Christ so wants us to have. But, with our own compromise, fear, and classic arguments, we have lost our influence. There is such a rise in pluralism and humanism and meism that our generation has made another flight from the church.
Is truth relevant to my lifestyle? What about absolutes? At a time when sin and paganism is rising, the church should be rising with it and not falling. Rising with truth and maturity and grace to meet the paganism of this world. Youth leaders who are not ashamed to preach and to teach the Word of God. To live before teens in such a way that they will see a clear picture of God in our lives.
PRAX - Emphasize the preaching of the Word | Emphasize the teaching of the Word | Encourage students to bring their Bibles to youth group (physical copies as well as electronic) | Annual inter-denominational involvement | Don't be afraid to deal with the issues that divide (sexual revolution, political arena, or social media)
Fourth, "Family meaningfulness." I have been in youth ministry for 33 years. And the problem of broken homes has always been a growing phenomenon in the youth culture. However, I have never seen it like this before. I ask students all the time about 'family dinner' or 'family vacation' or 'family devotions' and have come to realize these are almost non-existent.
If there is a time in history when Malachi's prophecy from chapter 4 seemed more needed, it is now. There is an absence of father in American homes that has added to the crime, sexual dysfunction, anger, lack of purpose, and economic peril so prevalent in our society. Strong and biblical male leadership is one of the most necessary ingredients modeled by spiritual leaders. In a culture of blended homes, it will take dad's, mom's, grandpa's, grandma's, aunts, and uncles to build our homes.
PRAX - Build your youth leadership team with single adults and married adults | Build the youth team with young adults and older adults | Invite students into your and your leader's homes and involve them in the family | Create a parents or guardian meeting or setting twice a year
To shape the youth culture in its setting is going to take intention and planning. It will take youth leaders who are willing to master each of these sectors and becoming professional at it. In The Teen Decade, will you ask the Lord for wisdom and understanding of the times, and, as one of God's Sociologists, to know what to do about it?