Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Youth Culture 101, Things That Students Are into TODAY!

"Youth Culture 101, Things That Students Are into TODAY" is what I would call this blog. I recently taught a conference that basically looked at our Youth Culture and then hopefully from that; how does the church reach students? Here is a copy of an article done on that conference taken directly from the Western Recorder, the KBC state newspaper.

"Steve Coleman, Minister of youth at FBC Richmond and one of our Kentucky Youth Ministry Coaches recently lead a workshop at Super Saturday on today’s youth culture. Below is an article written by Robin Bass of the Western Recorder on his workshop.

Elizabethtown—In some circles they are called “digital natives.” Others refer to them as the “stressed generation.”

Whatever the term used to describe today’s teenagers, experts agree these young people are living in a fast-paced world that is constantly changing, both socially and technologically.

“Do you realize that kids who are graduating and turning 18 this year were born about 1993? And when you say the first George Bush, they look at you and go, ‘There were two?’” said Steve Coleman, minister to youth and families at First Baptist Church of Richmond.

“I have kids in the sixth grade that are coming into my youth ministry this year that were not born last century. They were born in the year 2000,” he added. “We have this major shift coming our way and if we don’t know the culture, we’re in trouble.”

To emphasis his point during a recent Super Saturday workshop in Elizabethtown, Coleman provided a series of statistics and social trends facing teenagers.

Fact: 60 percent of children born in the 1990s will live without a father in the home for a portion of their lives. “We have so many single-mom families now. Dad is no longer in the picture,” Coleman noted. “Many times mom is the leader of the household because dad has abdicated that role.”

Fact: More mothers working outside the home.

Fact: The average father (when there is one) spends only two minutes a day in conversation with his teenager.

These trends have influenced how teenagers are forming relationships and where they are getting information. When looking for advice, Coleman said youth are 55 percent more likely to seek the advice of friends before anyone else.

Even more alarming is that 57 percent of teens say they have looked for advice from someone online they do not personally know. As for parents, teenagers seek the advice of their mothers 44 percent of the time, while dads come in the lowest at 20 percent. Boyfriends and girlfriends rank slightly higher than fathers at 23 percent.

When teenagers go out into the world seeking guidance and information via the Internet, who is there waiting?

“Our media wants their mind, their money and their soul,” Coleman said. Why else would corporations spend $16 billion annually convincing teens—and anyone else—to believe the individual knows best how to make decisions for himself. By the time a teenager graduates high school, he or she will have seen 36,000 commercials.

To get a true sense of what teenagers are exposed to in the media, Coleman recommended youth workers watch three programs: the Teen Choice Awards, the MTV Movie Awards and Super Bowl commercials to get a year’s worth of youth culture in just a few hours.

“Our kids are swimming in this cesspool all the time and it does affect them.What we have to do is find out where they are swimming and what they are being confronted with, and then we can find out how to reach them,” he added.

As for spiritual matters, teenagers are suffering from the MTDs, Coleman said—moralistic therapeutic deism. There are five key elements of this post-modern belief system:
• That God created the world and watches over it.
• God wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other.
• The central goal in life is to be happy and feel good about oneself.
• God is not needed except to resolve a problem.
• Good people go to heaven when they die.

In today’s youth culture, Coleman said there is no absolute truth. Many teens think it is judgmental or intolerant to believe Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, yet describe themselves as Christians.

Coleman’s first recommendation for youth workers and parents is to expand their personal libraries. Among the books he suggested were: “Youth Culture 101” and “Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture,” both by Walt Mueller; “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers,” by Christian Smith; and “Generation iY,” by Tim Elmore.

Students basically want three things from youth workers, Coleman suggested. Teens want an adult who knows their names, they want somebody who will pray for them, and they want someone who is authentic and practices his or her faith.

Another recommendation is to use the technology that has permeated youth culture. Texting, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are vital to maintaining social interactions with teenagers.

A simple way to get started is by creating a Facebook page for the youth group. Coleman also suggested using TweetDeck on a cell phone or desktop computer to send mass tweets to youth and parents. Youth event flyers, tracts or bulletins could have QR (Quick Response) codes that direct smartphone users directly to a website. Just be sure to update the website weekly, Coleman cautioned.

Since most students have cellphones with video capabilities, Coleman said youth workers could encourage them to record youth-group events and post the videos to the Facebook page. The next day, send out tweets and texts that will drive interest in the page. Youth likely will show the videos to friends who do not attend church.

“I know you don’t like it, but it’s not about us,” Coleman said, referring to technology and social media. “The reality of youth ministry is it’s one of the greatest times ever because they are open to the social part, they are open to the technology, and we can reach kids like we never have before. … Don’t look at it like we’re in trouble. Yes, we are in trouble, but sin is still sin and Jesus is still Jesus. Jesus is the answer.” (WR)

Western Recorder issue date: September 13, 2011.


Ben said...

Thanks for the insight, Coach Steve! One of the things I take from your article is "use the technology for the good of the Kingdom." I'm totally with you but curious: Are there any particular things that we as ministers should avoid in using the technology for ministry?

Stay In The Word said...

Ben thanks for the kudos and the question. The thing I am seeing right now on the churches as a whole is NOT to repost things on twitter that come into you. The twitter thing I have seen more abuse with photos, hacking, and retweeting things that are not appropriate. Not the orginal person's fault but it's still a concern. There is a real concern for church websites that post pictures of children on their sites. For those that are out there as a predator we have to careful. Thinking that we have just posted picutres of children in our churches on line. What comes to mind that you are thinking that the church should shy away from? Just interested in the conversation.