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"DAVID MIERS is reported to be in the top 10 cage fighters in Gosford. He has some serious dish washing skills and thinks that Elizabeth Bennet is hot. Although he thinks that his wife Rowena is hotter. David works in youth ministry for a great church. Likes to: speak in third person, watch and play soccer, eat food and surf the web. He has never watched Star Wars."

Youth Ministry: Tim's Take on Terrigal Teenagers

I caught up with Tim Baldwin yesterday afternoon for a coffee and too many Krispy Kremes! Tim is a great encouragement and I enjoy talking with him about Jesus, ministry and culture. We were talking about the dominant culture on the Central Coast. His reflection is that there is an idolatry of the lifestyle. Coasties LOVE the lifestyle. Coasties boast in the lifestyle. Coasties scorn Sydney-siders who must deal with traffic, pollution and people. One idea that Tim had was to tap into that culture by acknowledging how good a place the Central Coast truly is. But to help move people on from that and see that what matters is not where you live, but Jesus.

We then talked about the teenagers on the Central Coast. He came up with 2 things:
  • Teenagers want to fit in
  • Teenagers want to be where the action is
This is one of the most fundamental desires of a typical teenager. The desire to fit in with the crowd. Teenagers want to be cool. Teenagers want to be accepted. One of the ways to tap into this desire to be accepted is to acknowledge that the teenagers you are ministering to are thinking like that... "I know that you're desire in life is to be accepted and to fit in at school..." (in the context of a talk) One way to challenge this would be to encourage teenagers to actually stand out for Jesus. Stand out and be different from their classmates... because of Jesus. This doesn't mean they have to tuck their shirt into their undies or wear socks with sandals etc... but to live radically different from their peers when it comes to what they value, what they believe and how they live.

This 2nd point goes hand in hand with the first one. Teenagers want to fit in... and be at the right place doing the right things. The right parties. The right beach. The right shopping centre. We need to show teenagers that JESUS is where the action is at! Meeting with Jesus' people around Jesus' word for Jesus' glory on a Friday night is far more profound than hanging out at Erina Fair! Ephesians 3 helps to show us just how BIG the gathering of church is in the cosmos. We need to show teenagers that if they want to truly be where the action is at - they need to be with Jesus.

I really like these two points.

What do you think?
Is that true in your context?
How do we tap into this culture?

Would love to hear your comments...

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  • Anonymous Bumsey says so:
    Wednesday, March 14, 2007 11:00:00 am  

    I completely agree with all that Dave. Just like to add though that something that goes hand in hand with idolatry of the cost lifestyle is complete apathy for anything even slightly counter-cultural.

    This personally frustrates me no end as its always an uphill battle to get anyone to commit to something they wouldnt ordinarily do, especially when it comes to serving other people. I know you were talking about non christian teens, but as christian teens we need to be willing to get out of our comfort zone to serve God, thats wat living in a fallen world means for those of us God has chosen.

    Besides, if we arent willing to go out of our comfort zone, then were not going to be willing to tell our m8s about the grace of God, cause thats not exactly something that comes naturally to most people! top

  • Blogger David says so:
    Wednesday, March 14, 2007 12:07:00 pm  

    complete apathy for anything even slightly counter-cultural.

    that's a really helpful point...
    i know it in myself - apathy will often work itself out in laziness... lazy about the things that matter but busy about the things that don't matter!!

    I know you were talking about non christian teens
    i do still think that the Christian teens are shaped by this mindset.

    what do we do to combat it???
    suggestions? top

  • Anonymous CJ says so:
    Wednesday, March 14, 2007 3:56:00 pm  

    I would say that those two points raised would most likely be true of teenagers everywhere. It is certainly true of teenagers in our area, and in our context at St Matts Youth.

    I think the reason behind this is that teenagers hit a point where they want to have their own identity. They want to be different to their parents, and no longer be associated by default with what their parents are doing. This isn't to say that they won't do things with their family any more, or that they no longer want to be seen with their parents (although this is true of some teenagers), it is more that they want to be thought of in their own individual right. To do this they seek out others with similar interests with whom they can 'fit in'.

    I think the real challenge to those of us involved in ministry is to make sure that our churches and particularly our youth groups are places where people (especially newcomers) feel welcomed. We need to ensure that we are not simply catering to the needs of our core kids, but also providing an environment that kids want to invite their friends along to, and that the surfie, skatie, nerd, emo, whoever...will feel welcomed at.

    At Summer Madness (our youth camp for years 9-12 to kick off the year) we surveyed all the kids about their lives. The purpose of the session was for them to personally evaluate how they were going in their Christian walks - however we collected their answers at the end so that we could get an overview of where they are at. I haven't fully finished processing all of the results yet, but something interesting that has come up so far is the top five answers to the following two questions (don't worry about how the 'points' system works - just use it for relative comparison):

    * Situations in which I struggle to live as a Christian:

    1) Around non-Christian mates (76 pts)
    2) At school (53 pts)
    3) At home (43 pts)
    4) At parties (22 pts)
    5) Involved in gossiping (15 pts)

    * Top temptations to my faith are:

    1) Lust / Sexual immorality (77 pts)
    2) Wanting to do what my friends do / popularity (69 pts)
    3) Wanting to gossip (34 pts)
    4) Prioritising other commitments (32 pts)
    5) Doubt (30 pts)

    The interesting thing to note is that the majority of the kids are really concerned about fitting in with the world. They don't particularly want to 'stand out' as Christians, because it is seen to be 'uncool'. The tough thing is that when you try to make youth group more 'cool' the unintentional result is usually that you lose some of the focus on the gospel.

    I think the most important thing is that we need to show teenagers that you can have heaps and fun and live a Godly life at the same time. As leaders we need to be modelling this to the kids that we lead. Allow them to get to know us properly, and see that we are normal people too. top

  • Anonymous Andrew H says so:
    Wednesday, March 14, 2007 4:19:00 pm  

    I suppose this is part of being where the action is, but a lot of my mates just want to have fun. And I think they want to have fun now, and pay later. Living life on credit.

    So teens choose to do things without regard for the consequences because the fun is now and they don't have to think about the consequences until later - and if they can get drunk enough, they wont even have to think about it til later either.

    One challenge is that, given two competing demands on our time, the teenager naturally leans to the one they perceive as more fun. Erina takes priority over youth group, because it is more fun.

    The response to that, I think, could come in 2 ways: we could make youth more fun; or we could make youth appealing on another basis.
    I think ccecyouth does a great job of being fun, and I think it promotes itself as fun effectively as well. However, the tricky part is convincing people that it will be more fun than their other options. In fact, I think it needs to be seen as much more fun before someone will take the risk to come for the first time. The hardest part may not even be actually being fun, but convincing people of this.

    But I wonder whether there is another aspect we ought to be playing. Youth group offers something more than fun, something more meaningful.
    Perhaps a better way of reaching teens is by convincing them that there is more to life than fun. If teens become attracted to something because it is 'different' or 'challenging' or 'deep', then the whole game is moved onto new grounds - onto grounds where the Church has the advantage.
    I think coast youth revolutions are great at this - my friends show a lot of interest in hearing someone's answer to "If I were God, I'd end all suffering". They actually desired to hear someone else's point of view, whether or not they agree with it.

    My question, then, is: how can we show teens that life is more than just fun?
    And supposing that some teens already accept this, how can we appeal to a desire for meaning? top