(My apologies to anyone named Nancy.)
I recently taught at a conference where another key note speaker was there to share about today’s teens and culture. What struck me is how negative the messages came across about teens’ use of social media. I began to wonder if the “negativity” was a ploy or platform to get participants’ heads to nod. I mean, could it be true that he had tapped into some youth pastors’ secret love of dirty laundry especially when its under the banner of “teaching teenagers for God.”
Do we do that in our ministries? Garner attention to ourselves by building a sensational platform on getting Christians to “tongue cluck” about what “those crazy teenagers today are up to?” (You know what “tongue clucking” is – that sound we make when somebody does something “bad.” Kind of a “tsk, tsk” noise accompanied by a slow shake of the head.
What was the speaker really trying say? IDK. What I heard was that any students all up into texting, Instwitbook, teen celebrity magazines are the narcissistic, hopeless future of our country. While I appreciated this person’s experience, the research shared and the freshness of the topics…come on. Really? Are our teenagers that dumb that Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber (two children also loved by God) will be their complete downfall? BTW: I totally support helping our children make good celebrity and social media choices. I also get the speaker’s point of possible addiction to all things “screen.” After all, I’ve also texted someone during church, kept my phone by my bed, and am posting this from an airplane into the literal and figurative blogosphere.
Maybe there’s a balance for teaching our kids. Maybe helping them create ways to use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as a relational tool is better than throwing out the whole “baby with the bath water.” Perhaps giving them a filter to look into the lives of teen celebrities will keep our students listening to us longer than if we give off the smell that we condemn all of teen culture.
Honestly, I don’t even know what to say. I’m still thinking this through…so don’t shoot the messenger so to speak. I guess for me it comes down to hoping we can find ways to joyfully share our God and our lives with our students, while sharpening our skills to be in the world but not of the world. For me that means not being negative on the parts of teen culture that aren’t the “hill worth dying on.” Guess I’d rather spend my limited youth relational time on things like hurting kids and sexting than if my teens check their phones 12x a day.
Back in the Dark Ages, this crazy new communication tool came along called the phone. In another time gone by decade, a teen celebrity came on the scene named Elvis. That’s probably where culture really went down the tube.