The World Has Changed – How Should We respond?

written by David Wright
9 · 12 · 22

There are few things more jarring and daunting than being dropped into a foreign culture, having to learn a new language, and navigating your way around. The overwhelming strangeness of absolutely everything leaves one feeling unequipped or unprepared for each new day. This is where the church in America finds itself today. Yet we did not move to a distant country, our country and culture became foreign to us.

Years ago, my wife and I packed up our young family and left America to serve the Lord 4000 miles from the Chicago suburb we had been serving in. I was ten years into full time student ministry as we embarked on this life changing venture. We moved to Cheshire, England. Though we knew it would be something of a culture change, we expected a common language and cultural similarities. We were naïve, underestimated the differences and found the first several months overwhelming. Fortunately, our priest was married to an American and they translated life for us.

The shift in culture that America has experienced has been so sudden and strange that it has left many youth and children’s ministry leaders scratching their heads. School teachers are experiencing much of the same. Nowhere is this shift more evident than in the area of sexual orientation and gender identity. To grasp the dramatic shift, consider the data of a 2021 study of over 12,000 US adults. The percentage of those who self-identify as LGBTQ has doubled with each generation. Specifically, that is 2.6% of Baby Boomers, 4.2% of Gen X, 10.5% of Millennials, and 20.8% of Gen Z.

For schoolteachers (my wife among them) there is a reality that most preteens and teens are experiencing significant confusion around their identity. Every day they have students coming into class announcing a change in how they identify as they try to navigate their world. All this is being driven by our culture and it’s right here in South Carolina.

For youth ministers, there is a clear sense that if they teach anything counter to the cultural narrative, some students will drop out of youth group. Approaching cultural issues is like walking on eggshells. Speak with the wrong tone or words, and student’s eyes glaze over. By the way, this is also the experience of many who are working with college students.

A rapidly shifting cultural landscape is not only challenging for those of us in church leadership, but also overwhelming to kids growing up in the midst of it. We are seeing epidemic levels of anxiety and depression among children and teens in America. The suicide rate has risen drastically. Studies are showing us that despite being the most connected generation, teens today are also the loneliest. 

Assuming that the rate of cultural change is unlikely to slow, how do we respond as God’s people? Let’s rule out the instinct to withdraw or hide; we are not likely to become like the Amish and isolate ourselves from the world around us. We need a strategy centered around the Gospel, loving others, being gracious, and remaining true to our faith. We need a reorientation that will especially benefit younger generations. 

Three interconnected points of focus come to mind immediately based on what research is teaching us.

First, we need a renewed understanding of family and its place in ministry. We need our churches to be like big families and our families to be like little churches. The church and family need to be places of worship, discipleship, and serving others. They need to be the structures where we experience relational care, God’s love, forgiveness, and truth. It is God’s family in which kids need to find their identity and have that affirmed.

Second, we need a culture of hospitality centered in the family. Keep in mind the understanding of family just mentioned. We have to see the family as a unit where ministry takes place that not only raises up the next generation but blesses the world we are immersed in. When exiled to Babylon, God’s people were instructed to be a blessing to the place that God had put them. Our families need to be a blessing in their communities. Our churches, as God’s bigger family, need to be a blessing to their communities. Our kids growing up need to be part of how we love others and demonstrate God’s love to others.

Third, we need to be very intentional about the evangelism and discipleship of students (children, teens, and college) both in the church and in our communities. Everyone needs good news. We all need hope. The Gospel is Good News that gives us hope and transforms lives. It is no longer enough to provide Sunday School, VBS, and youth groups for our students and expect transformed lives in this rapidly changing culture. The world has changed too much for the church’s strategy for raising up kids to remain the same.

If you would like to learn more about these ideas visit engagingeverygeneration.com.

Share on your social media

Author

David Wright

Subscribe

Sign up for our newsletter and receive a free gift.

Previous
Posts

Grieving Through the Holidays

Grieving Through the Holidays

The thought of facing the holidays with a heart heavy from the burden of grief can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, there isn’t a fast-forward or even a pause button for grief. Surviving the holidays while grieving is much like surviving life while grieving; it is done one day, one step, or even one breath at a time. Author Julie Grant offers tools to help those who are grieving to navigate the holidays.

read more
How Long Do I Have to Wait?

How Long Do I Have to Wait?

One of my least favorite things to do is to wait. But God has given instruction, and even commands, on the topic of waiting. For example, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). During the upcoming time referred to as “Advent” we are doing another kind of waiting: eager anticipation of the celebration of our Savior Jesus Christ’s birth. 

read more
Thanksgiving Ideas to Disciple Your Grandchildren

Thanksgiving Ideas to Disciple Your Grandchildren

The celebration of Thanksgiving is an excellent time to pour into your grandchildren. Often, extended family gatherings occur and the day passes quickly without taking time to personally connect with grandchildren or intentionally pass on faith in Christ. The Thanksgiving ideas are divided into four categories: teaching, crafts, activities, and mealtime and food. Evaluate your current Thanksgiving traditions and determine how you can better use Thanksgiving to make lasting memories and build the faith of your family.

read more
4 Tips for Helping Grandchildren of Divorced Parents

4 Tips for Helping Grandchildren of Divorced Parents

As grandparents of children who have experienced the divorce of their parents, we can testify to the painful after-effects on the families involved. We have faced challenges for which we felt unprepared both as grandparents and parents of adult children. Although every divorce is unique, there are some basic guidelines to help grandparents avoid common landmines.

read more

Comments

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Holiday Deal

Anytime you spend $50 or more in our store during December, we will send you a free book, Family Month of Prayer.

Take advantage of this offer anytime December 1 - 31, 2022.