Are We Adequately Preparing Our Young People for Life?
- Thursday, April 29, 2010
The last thing parents need is another guilt trip about how poorly this generation is producing Christian kids. I'm a parent of three young children so I understand the weight of expectation and the feelings of inadequacy that accompany the job.
We've been inundated with piles of data that show kids abandoning their faith at a faster clip than ever before. Those statistics have been debated back and forth. They've given rise to books predicting the doom and gloom for the church, the family, and America. I still rest my hope in the sovereignty of God to move in every generation.
However, I've noticed a growing trend that is slightly disturbing. It's the trend toward "kidult" behavior. It seems kids are staying kids longer and putting off the reasonability of adulthood.
I wonder if our parenting and our church culture is partly responsible.
The Dreaded M Word
Today's generation of youth leaders are reaching young people in wonderful and innovated ways. Unprecedented resources are being thrown at Christian youth. But I hear very few messages that encourage actual maturity. You know, growing up, being responsible.
I'm Jewish. I'm a Christian and was raised in the church but part of my heritage is something called a Bar Mitzvah (Bat Mitzvah for girls). It's supposed to serve as the marking of a solemn time in a young person's life, where he moves from acting like a kid to moving toward responsible adulthood. To be fair, most of these rituals are more or less excuses by the family to party.
But the principle is sound because growing up something to be encouraged, even celebrated.
Maturity is not a popular message today. Watch a sporting event and you'll be inundated with commercials that send the message: Guys just like to party, be lazy, and look at scantily clad women. Girls just like to flirt and show themselves off for men. For everyone it's a message that work stinks, life is about playing and goofing off, and nobody is really serious about following any kind of order in their lives.
Even the church is culpable. It seems we've dumbed down the gospel and the Bible to make Christianity cool to our young people. And I'm a fan of contextualizing our faith so teens can understand it. But I think they can understand a lot more than we give them credit for. And along the way, we seem to be sending a message that as long as you pledge your life to Jesus, you can hang out, goof off, and delay maturity as long as you feel like it.
From the culture and most corners of the church, it's a loud and clear signal. Delay the inevitable, hard decisions, because living as a man or woman is about as fun as a root canal.
XBOX in the Basement
I was fortunate to grow up in a family and church culture that encouraged adulthood. For a young boy, manliness, working hard, building stuff, accomplishing something, building a career—these held up as worthwhile goals.
My dad often dragged me to the construction site, where I watched and helped him install plumbing in new homes. At thirteen I was learning the importance of dependability, hard work, responsibility.
I didn't become a plumber, but a pastor and a writer. Apparently the handy genes skipped a generation. But, even though I'm more comfortable with a word processor than a wrench, I'm so glad Dad built the virtues of hard work, responsibility, and leadership in me.
My pastor always preached to parents that "kids need to work, its good for them." At the time, as a kid, I didn't much like those words. But as an adult, I realize those words of instruction were what my parents needed to hear. That it wasn't cruel to make me mow the lawn and take the garbage out. It wasn't unusual punishment to ask me to pay for my car insurance and the fancy new basketball shoes I wanted every few months.
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