4 Ways Youth Ministries Can Respond to the Current Culture Shift with Teens

I recently wrote a post where I describe some of the things that are standing out to me in relation to youth culture’s recent shift as evidenced by the apps and websites that they choose to use.

My conclusion was that “we can see that there is clearly an overt shift in teen culture from the Smiling young woman with headphonesconcept of figuring out who they are and expressing that online through profiles and blogs, to staying anonymous and hiding who they are entirely. This shift is pared with the shift from “selfie” photos to live self-broadcasting from their bedrooms and shows us where they are gaining a sense of self worth. From the affirmation of strangers and nameless commenters, this is a dangerous combination.”

There were two action steps that speak to the needs
of our youth that I encouraged parents to engage with. But I was also realizing that the church, or more specifically youth ministries in churches, could use some application of this reality to help determine how it should or could impact what they do with the youth that come through their doors and engage in their youth ministries.

Here are my thoughts on how youth can be more effectively engaged with, in ways that will draw them towards real people, relationships and experiences.

There are 4 things that youth ministries should take to heart as they move forward:

  1. Multi-sensory Experiences – Youth will need to have all of their senses engaged at this point. The fast paced media world has distracted them and slowing things down is important and will help them feel and see the world again. Lighting, smells, tangible hands on activities (tactile like journaling and illustrations involving objects they can touch will make a deep impression on them. Experiences away from home and technology are important too. Camps and similar community building activities can work well for this too.
  2. Relationships – this is more important than ever – they need to be able to see that there is a difference between people on line and the real world. Development of care, responses seen in body language will help develop social skills and leave a lasting impression that the Internet can’t mimic.
  3. Education for parents – The responsibility of youth ministries to equip and make parents aware is growing drastically. Most parents have no idea what they are doing with technology but without them your youth will stray into areas you don’t want them to be.
  4. Enter their world – Don’t let these things scare you away from engaging in the online world. Jumping in and engaging for the purpose of redeeming and staying in the loop can be good. Find the balance, be an example of proper use and be the person in the room that they realize will see what they are doing on line.

Although many of these elements aren’t new in and of themselves, the rational behind why doing them is important can and should bring whole new life and buy in from those involved.

There is incredible potential for us to engage in the lives of youth on a daily basis. Not to correct and condemn them but instead in order to walk with them as they figure out who they are and who they should/could be online.