I’ve often times thought that the titles of our CPYU parent seminars don’t really capture the full impact of what happens in the room. For example, I do a three-hour seminar on youth culture trends called “No Parent Left Behind.” It’s a seminar where I briefly unpack some of the main cultural trends affecting children and teens today. Fact is, some of that stuff isn’t very pretty, and the parents in the room let me know that. . . . which has led me to consider retitling the seminar to something like. . . “Birth Control.”
While youth culture has it’s more-than-fair-share of ugliness and difficult stuff, we can’t ignore it. It’s there. It’s real. And it shapes the values, attitudes, and behaviors of our kids. If we don’t endeavor to see it, understand, and address it, we’re not doing anybody any favors. If youth culture is the soup our kids swim in everyday, we need to be looking closely at what’s in the soup, sharing what we learn with parents, and then move on to address what we’ve found in our ministries to kids.
Josh asked me to share a couple of guest blogs on some of these main trends we’ve got to recognize, understand, and address. The first is “Amorality.” We all know the terms “moral” and “immoral.” In a world where there’s a commonly held standard of right and wrong, behavior that conforms to that standard is called “moral,” while behavior that deviates from that standard is “immoral.” But life isn’t that simple anymore. We now live in a world where the commonly held standard is pretty much gone. Everyone decides for themselves what’s right for them and wrong for them based on how they feel or what “works for me” at any given time. . . and that can change from moment to moment. That’s why we’re living now living in an “amoral” world. . . the prefix “a” indicating and absence of commonly held standards. Now, right and wrong is up for grabs.
Here’s an example of how things have changed. When I was 12 I was exposed to pornography for the first time. . . that’s is, something other than National Geographic. It was a Playboy magazine my friend Todd had found on the side of the road. When Todd showed it to us, he showed it to us in a place where we wouldn’t get caught. Still, we spent half our time looking over Todd’s shoulder at the magazine, and the other half of our time looking over our own shoulders to see if anybody who might catch us in the act was coming our way. We lived in a world where there was a standard which told us that what we were doing was wrong. . . immoral. Think about our culture’s reaction to pornography today. See how things have changed?
A few weeks ago I was speaking to some youth workers when one of the volunteers – a sixty-something man who had been working with a small group of 9th grade boys for years – shared this frustration. “I recently asked my small group this question: ‘What is true? Name something that you know is true.’” He said they were dumbfounded. It took them three weeks to come up with an answer. You see, in an amoral world, what’s true for me might or might not be true for you. . . and that’s not a problem.
So. . . what do we do with this? I believe with every fiber of my being that our relationships with kids trump all this other stuff. Yes, it might take time to wade through it with them. They won’t be easily convinced. But over time, ministering to them in the context of vulnerable relationship is something God uses in their lives. So, in the context of relationships, here are three strategies (not at all exhaustive!) that offer a good starting point for pointing your students to the truth.
First, know the truth. You’ve got to be pursuing your own relationship with the Incarnate Word, Jesus. You’ve got to be growing in your knowledge of His written revelation of Himself in the Scriptures. Without a knowledge of the truth, you’ll be blown around just as much as your students.
Second, teach the truth. Talk about it in your comings and goings with your students. Look for every opportunity to contrast the truth with the cultural lies thrown at our kids over and over each and every day. Talk about the commercials and ads they see. Deconstruct and discuss the music they listen to. Let them know where Snooki and the Situation might have it all wrong. This is simply living out Deuteronomy 6 with 24/7 non-stop chatter about how the Word speaks to the world.
Finally, live the truth. Nothing is more convincing than seeing truth embodied. Your example is powerful. It’s like St. Francis once said: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
Walt Mueller is the President of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding which has tons of great information to equip parents and youth leaders about the culture we live in. He is a great friend and you can read his blog, a must read, right here.