- Understanding Today's Youth -
As with any person/group, to love youth/teens you've got to know who they are. Keep these things in mind when planning how to grow youth as champions of life. Sift your ideas through these filters to help you see if they are "youth-worthy."
- Never known a day without computers, the internet, MTV, or cell phones – very technology savvy. They disdain "dry and boring," as in flannelgraph and talking-head lecture formats. ASK: Are you employing technology in your program?
- Most “marketed-to” generation in history, yet skeptical of marketing messages. They can smell someone who's marketing to them and it will turn them off. ASK: Are we sure our plans are not of a get-you-to-do-something variety?
- Majority come from broken homes, resulting in some pain and fear but also a deep need for healthy, trustworthy adult relationships. Using only illustrations with intact families or of a "Leave it to Beaver" ilk will turn them off. ASK: How can our plans take this sensitivity into account?
- Relativistic morality – “what’s true for you” is their credo – but can’t avoid their underlying need for transcendent Truth. They are more informed than you were when you were a teen (pre-21st century). The older the teen is, the less likely they'll just "take your word for it." You've got to explain your viewpoint and reason through it. ASK: Am I just telling them what to believe, or am I reasoning with them, helping them engage and dialogue?
- Experienced or at least informed about issues surrounding the life arena, including sex, pornography, abortion, and so on. Don't be naiive! They know more about sex than you ever did when you were a teen! And don't think that teens at Christian schools are innocent, either. Sexuality is everywhere. ASK: Are we presenting information that's relevant to their knowledge level?
- Suspicious of formal institutions and organizations, including “churchy” churches. This relates to them being highly marketed-to. Lose the cold, distant, dogmatic, pietistic religious jargon. Speak plainly. It's not "church as your grandfather knew it" anymore. ASK: Are we putting our message and truth in a form that these teens can really hear, or just a form that we (older folk) understand?
- Disdain for stereotypical “moral majority” branded Christianity. When it comes to the life arena, teens (and others too, actually) disdain the in-your-face, cold, abrupt, confrontational Christianity characterized by early "pro-life" efforts. ASK: What brand of Christianity are we presenting? Is it a religious, moral-majority, stereotypical brand, or a healthy, Biblical, grace-and-truth brand?
- Want truth, sincerity, relationships, connections, and purpose-driven activities. Teens, more than almost any other group today, do not respond to programmed approaches. Because of the broken homes they live in and the culture they're raised in overall, they crave relationship. ASK: Are we just treating these teens as another group to win over, or do we really care about them? How can we show it over the long term?