Almost every day I hear a different youth worker complain about a parent who doesn’t really “care” about their child. Have you ever done that? I know I have. The “untraditional” family has become the norm with divorce rates continuing at 60% (in and out of the church), parents cohabiting, and grandparents raising grandchildren.
Then there are the struggles our students are facing. Bullying, abuse, and identity are universal. However, there are also drugs, violence, eating disorders, cutting, and just generally being a teen. We keep saying it’s “harder” for this generation.
Why do we think that?
There was a time when truthfully by looking at someone’s fashion, taste in music, family make up, or “issues” it was easy to identify where they “lived.” There were definitive “sides of town,” with the particulars of what went on there. Now we have come to live in a “mash-up” society of culture, challenges, and tastes. Our idea of who is sitting in our pews, attending our youth groups or living in our community is no longer easily defined by how much money they make, location or the color of one’s skin.The other side of the tracks with their common misconceptions and problems are moving, and reaching each of us in ministry in some way.
Regardless of where you are currently located, I would venture I could place you in a room with 50 other church leaders from anywhere in America and there would be common stories to tell.
As I have had the opportunity to speak across the country I often talk with youth pastors who have students who have some families they struggle with. Everyone has a different “label.” Here are some of the labels I have heard:
Inner city- at-risk-urban- unchurched-spiritually immature- dechurched- and “The Community”
The common threads I hear are families living in some form of “survival mentality.” They just are trying to get through the day and “live their life.” You might choose a different term, but my ministry partner Jeff Wallace and I use the term, “new urban.” It does include demographic area, culture, multi-ethnicity, social ills, and socio-economics. However, we would argue, in terms of the Christian community, this title blurs those lines and moves beyond them. Families are dealing with deep-seated issues all around; honestly, some are just better at hiding it than others. Our book Everybody’s Urban can help you delve more into this idea and on how to reach your “new urban” students who are in a survival mindset and quite possibly stuck there.
It’s time for the Body of Christ to stop making assumptions. It doesn’t matter what we label we give, or what we see with our eyes; too many are stuck existing to survive the day when they need to know Christ wants them to thrive.
The question we must ask ourselves is will we stop thinking “those problems aren’t ours” or thinking some families are just too broken, and instead intentionally let compassion move us to action?
This is why Jeff Wallace and myself are partnering with LeaderTreks on April 29 – May 1 for a “Refuel Retreat” at Pawley’s Island in South Carolina. We want to help you embrace and support who is in your group. How do you partner with a generation of parents that seem more distant than ever? How do you help students genuinely step up and know what it means to belong to Jesus? (For more information click here.) (It’s alright if you don’t want to talk to us just enjoy the free time and being at that beach.)
Won’t you join us in the conversation?