If you ask me what I fear most in regard to the Christian teenagers today, I would tell you that sex, drugs, or rock & roll are not on the top of my list. These things are detrimental to the lives of young people today and we should be fierce in our stand against them, but I believe the devil has a much more subtle plan in place. A patient Satan has affectively implemented a strategy that dates back at least 70 years. His master plan when it comes to teenagers is to separate them away from the guidance and influences of adults and into their own segregated subculture.
Now gently dubbed as the “Generation Gap”, we can clearly see the systematically defragmentation of the adult/teenage relationship in our culture today. Seventy years ago the word “teenager” did not exist and most teens found themselves working with adults, going to church with adults, or even going to war with adults. They acquired a strong sense of belonging, obtained an identity, established values, and quickly became a vital contributing part of society. A young man or woman in 1935 learned who they were by being with adults in an adult world and there was no age segregation. It is no wonder then that this “greatest generation” fought there way out of the great depression, defeating the Axis, and built America into the super power it is today.
The Gap Infusion
Today, teenagers primarily retrieve their identity from their peers or from consumerism. Society requires that teenagers are isolated away from adults in High School and Colleges. On any given day, “Soccer Moms” are busy driving their kids from one teen sequestered event to the next. Teenagers now enjoy their own secluded world of music, fashion, and entertainment and Corporate America has created a teen specified market where branding is the name of the game. Social media now serves as an adolescent’s communication pipeline where the young can congregate exclusively in an adult-less world. Child centered homes create places where the adult world bends towards the teenager instead of the other way around. The breakdown of the family structure and the missing father figures have also left a gaping hole that contributes to the problem. Even our much beloved digital age has left us with a technology gap that often works to separates generations.
Fueling the fires is the fact that today’s teenagers are very aware of the horrifying reality of adult predators. If we go back 20 years, it is very likely that most teenagers (and many adults) would be totally naive as to the evil that exists in this regard, but today’s teenager is justifiably and acutely aware. Thankfully, there is much communication about this subject today and many necessary policies have been instituted to counter this evil, but I think we could also agree that one negative affect has been that we have taught our young people not to trust adults. Finding the balance in this area is difficult to say the least, but I am convinced that this is part of Satan’s long-term ploy.
There is no doubt that this teenage abstraction has resulted in problems in society. Our bookstores are filled with titles like “A path to a purpose” by Willem Damon, or “Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How to Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old” by Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen. There is also a book called “Sparks: How Parents Can Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers” by Peter L. Benson. There are countless “coming of age” movies and on-line there are websites like “Failure to Launch” which help young people find direction. It is clear that the world is aware that we have a problem. What has been said is now really true; “adolescence begins in biology and ends in culture”.
In The Church
The church has also not escaped this mentality. The rule of the day for the average Christian Youth Ministry is that they provide teen specified programs. There is intense pressure on youth leaders to keep up with this juvenile accommodating world by creating isolated places where teens can be entertained. But this is not the role of the church. As youth leaders we should not be in the entertainment business because we will loose out to the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry. A. W. Tozer put it best when he said “You win them to what you win them with”.
We must win them over through discipleship. Our youth ministries must have a culture of adult mentoring and there must be a counter strategy where teenagers learn to be with grown-ups in an adult world. It is within the context of adult relationships that our young people will find a place in the church. Click To Tweet And once they have found a place in the church they will not only find a place in society, but they will also ultimately find a calling in God’s Kingdom.
If we where to describe what makes an adult we would use words like “identity”, “responsibility”, or “contributing to the community”. The truth is that the adult transition is on hold until the teenagers learn how to be these things and they can only learn them. Therefore our church must be a place where young people connect with adults.
Ps 145:4 One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts