We had a great time this weekend at the Parenting Teenagers Workshop. In our area, many churches come together during Disciple Now weekend for the times of worship and fellowship. As I talked with Ben Hjalmer, I asked how we could make this a more family-equipping weekend. What normally happens in Disciple Now is some great discipleship moments for teenagers but parents are not involved unless they are hosting or helping.
The area student pastors decided to create a training session for parents when their students where in breakout sessions of their own. Robbie Earle of New Covenant and myself led the time. We were so grateful to have parents from all over join us in this session.
We had some great discussion. We had some great questions. I wanted to share some of the content we discussed.
Understanding Youth Culture Today
Robbie did a great job helping parents understand what is transpiring within youth culture today. He presented a list of 6 major items facing the youth culture today.
- Crowded Isolation -This is the idea that social media makes us more connected, but it can actually be a major cause of
disconnect in the lives of teens. We are always “connected” but never connecting. They know a lot of people but they do not know a person a lot.
- Infantilization – Our culture has perpetuated the extension of adolescence by years, which also breeds laziness, lack
of responsibility, and entitlement in teens. We are removing the expectations and responsibilities previous generations had on teenagers and it is slowing down the maturing process.
- Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – This is the primary “religion” of most teens today. I am a “good” person, I deserve to
be happy, and God is there but not really involved in my life. It is not Christianity.
- Slacktivism – Teens give more and volunteer more overall to better the world than ever before, but it is typically not with
the right motives. Peer pressure, social media campaigns, and guilt tend to drive them to a certain type of “activism.” It’s cool to go to
Costa Rica and serve an orphanage; it’s not cool to go to a nursing home in Greenwood and serve an elderly every
Saturday. It’s cool to share an image to help “raise awareness” for a cause; it’s not cool to give up eating out 3
months to support that cause. Many teens possess a false sense of activism and can actually make them prideful in their efforts..
- Anti-Authority – This issue has always been an issue, but it has changed over time. It used to culminate in pranks, then drugs,
and then sex. Now the new way to skirt authority is to block it from any “real” connection. It’s no longer about pushing
rebellion to the surface, it’s about hiding in the shadows. It’s why teenagers are having an exodus of the social media platforms when their parents arrive. They must move further into the dark where they can’t be seen. This is also why many teenagers create fake profiles on Facebook or Twitter so their parents think they know what their children are like.
- Victim Idolatry – In today’s teen culture, it’s better to have a bad story, than to just be “ok.” Our culture rewards the
victims and punishes the happy with disinterest. Our churches do this as well. We highlight those gritty testimonies so much that we often hear someone say, “I would give my testimony, but it’s not that great.” By the way, having a great family, being saved at an early age, and staying close to Jesus is a wonderful testimony that I want to hear more often! This victim idolatry causes students to exaggerate or even fabricate what is going on in their lives in order to receive attention.
Some great things to think about! I will share some more in the days to come. Thanks for all who came out!
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.