Home > Youth Ministry > A shift in youth culture?

A shift in youth culture?

I recently began to collect board games for a youth drop-in for a parish I serve.

One of these games is called LIFE. You may recall this game: You travel around a game board with many life decisions to make starting with whether you will go to college or launch into a career. You spin a plastic wheel that seemed to have more difficulty staying attached than offering you luck in your life. As you travel, you have bills to pay, a wedding to plan, a house to buy, children to name, and family vacations to take. Eventually, after you paid for your children’s expensive tuition and a few other later-in-life big expenses, you get to make the ultimate decision for your retirement. You may choose to play it safe and buy a very lovely, but not top-of-the-market mansion that allowed you to know exactly how much you would have in your bank. Or, you could choose the more risky option of leaving your stocks open and perhaps loosing everything for the chance to retire as a millionaire.

The LIFE game though that I put on the shelf was an updated version that is significant as it follows a cultural trend we are seeing in our youth. Instead of family and wealth, you pursue fame and glamour. Your expenses are hiring agents and paying exorbitant amounts to keep your hair and make up ready for the camera at any given moment. You earn money – but only as you increase in fame.

I read an article (which unfortunately I can’t find at the moment) notes that we are seeing a cultural shift with the awakening of shows like Glee and American Idol that not only teaches that fame is what we strive for – but that we can attain this goal in our lifetime. Previously, television shows upheld values surrounding home and work life. Often wealth was the valued prize, but that typically came through hard work. American Idol now holds a well-viewed episode in which some of the worst auditions are compiled. While some of these auditions are genuine, there is an increasing number of youth who will perform poorly in order to have their ten seconds of fame. The music industry has found a number of ‘youtube phenomenons’ who are then offered an opportunity to produce a record.

Vines are the latest venture in social media. As one younger youth said to me, “Facebook is so yesterday!” Vines are 6-8 second videos of you doing something  – and often something rather embarrassing. One such vine that went viral is of a teenage boy falling down the stairs. The youth group I mentored explained that it was far better to be famous for falling down the stairs than to not be known today.

This shift is both significant and concerning.

And as people tasked with shepherding children and youth in our churches, we need to pay attention to this shift. While I take pride in people noticing a job well done, fame doesn’t even fall on my list of things I wish to achieve in my lifetime. Moreover, the one we follow never sought fame but humbled himself even to death on a cross (Phil 2). How do we make disciples of this Saviour – who sought not human glory but to do His Father’s will?

  1. john sullivan
    January 7, 2015 at 4:43 am

    Excellent article Elizabeth as always!

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