Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Systematic Abandonment of the Youth

World Magazine has a very interesting article titled The Other Unreached People Group. I found that this article intersected well with the post that I shared last week on the importance of parents in my youth ministry. Mindy Belz writes in the article about the difference between the 10/40 Window and the 10/30 Window. Ms. Belz tells us that:

"The 10/40 Window, that geographic band between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude that's home to the largest unreached people groups—and the poorest and most spiritually impoverished—in the world. Its billion account for the majority of the world's Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists."

This part of the world contains some of the greatest socioeconomic issues and the least amount of access to the Christian message and resources. But Belz shares that Eric Larson and Jonathan Taylor are now identifying the 10/30 Window. They feel that Christian missions should not just look at things geographically but also in terms of generations. The 10/30 Window is the group of people in the world that are between the ages of 10 and 30. Taylor says that this age range presents Christians with a unique challenge:

"(It is) the largest unreached people group in human history, larger than the 100 largest geographically defined unreached people groups combined."

The article identifies three main challenges being faced by this youthful demographic. The first is the extension of adolescence and the second is the globalization of this generation through social media on the Internet. Where this article intersects with my understanding of the importance of parents in youth ministry comes because of what Larson says is the abandonment of youth by their parents:

"Towering alongside these new trends is what Larsen calls 'the systemic adult abandonment of the young.' The very things that unite young people divide them from adults. They learn the day's conversation topics from a social media website, not the dinner table. They go to YouTube for direction on how to change the oil in the car, not Dad. If they have a question about who took the first walk on the moon or what is an HPV vaccine, they're more likely to google it than to ask in the car on the way home from school. 

"And clearly parents have turned away from youth, particularly in the West (and often in pursuit of extending their own youth). Even in our Christian circles adults often are no longer a treasury of wisdom and experience for children but a directory of services. The Christian school or the homeschool curriculum educates and disciplines them, the youth group entertains them, and clinical experts are there to rehabilitate them when they fall."

One of the things that I look back on in my youth was the importance of my parents–especially my father–in terms of my own faith development. But it also goes beyond that. My parents were a large influence in my life in a number of areas and I wonder how different my life would be today if they had been more detached. I have also witnessed the importance of adults within the church taking an active role in the lives of youth. In many cases these adults stood in as a sort of surrogate parents. They helped out where the biological parents needed help. All adults in the church play an important role in the lives of the youth in the church.

"Larsen's plea is simple and direct: 'We are calling on an entire adult population to turn its hearts to the young.'

"His plea is not only to parents but to what he calls a covenant community of adults who will recognize the value of training the next generation in all things at all levels—and not as in 'we hire some people and we say we have done it.'

"Larsen believes it's significant that the Old Testament ends in Malachi with the promise of the prophet who will 'turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers ...' (Malachi 4:6) and that the New Testament begins with the birth of a baby, an infant savior, Himself born to parents who today would be considered part of the 10/30 Window.

The role of reaching the youth does not belong to the "hired" youth pastor. It lies in the hands of all of the adults within the church.

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