By Mike Calhoun, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
Culture is more than a grocery list of distinctives or a demographic study. People groups can have the power to change a society – and ultimately history – by virtue of their choices or preferences. I am referring to the sheer force that a group of people can have as a unit.
The power of culture demands that a youth leader be a “student of students.” Music genres, clothing styles, political agendas as well as movements are influenced by young people. It is imperative that we understand each generation and their distinctive cultural nuances. Being a student of the culture will provide insight into the generation, its influence and open strategic ministry opportunities.
Three Ways to Understand the Youth Culture Diagnostic:
- Realize some cultural nuances are causes rather than symptoms. We must restrain ourselves from too quickly making judgments based on behavior which is often purely symptomatic. Dr. David Ferguson, often reminds people to “look for the need behind the deed.”
- Maximize the opportunity for communicating truth. Make no mistake – the foundation of our message is the Word of God for communicating the Gospel. However, the platform for communication grows exponentially when we understand the culture of our audience.
- Refuse to accept the social constructs imposed upon an unsuspecting generation. Did you ever wonder who determines what is “Hot” and what is not in “Youth Culture?” We think it is students but most of the time it is marketers. Often even the characteristics assigned to the generations are more conceived than perceived by those very same marketers.
Marketers do not wait around to discover what teens want…they just tell them. Focus groups determine what the next trend will be and then carefully crafted marketing campaigns are created. Marketers even name the generations and those names are often defining.