Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Below is the main message I sent yesterday to our High School parents. I’m posting it as a blog for a couple of reasons. 1) If any of our Middle School parents would like to join the conversation, I’d hate to leave them out 2) Some of you may read this and discover you didn’t get my High School parent email (If that’s true email me so I can update your email address at email@example.com) and 3) Some of you may just be more likely to see the message on a blog or Facebook than through an email. Anyway, I hope it helps and if you’re interested in purchasing a book, please let me know.
Hey Parents! I want to be a better resource to you as you try to love and nurture your child towards a life of faith. I want to be an asset and I’d like for us to start having more helpful conversations about helping your students. Furthermore, I’d like for you and I to get the rest of Woodmont Hills Church on our team. How, you ask? I’ve got a couple of ideas, but first, let’s talk about a problem we’re experiencing.
You’ve probably heard someone trying to explain to you how teenagers today are experiencing their formative years in ways no generation before them has. That person may have even been me. You may have heard that they have more pressure on them than ever before, more ways of being publicly humiliated, and less adults who care for them. You may have also heard all of that with a healthy dose of skepticism, thinking, “Didn’t Gen X-ers say something very similar?” or “Didn’t the Builder Generation have to grow up pretty fast? And didn’t they do it with much less whining?” While it’s healthy to take in such bold claims with a touch of skepticism, I’m here to tell you, I do think this generation of teenagers are in a uniquely difficult situation. Allow me to explain…
There are two phenomenon converging on our students like a perfect storm. Phenomenon number 1 is this: the skills it takes to be considered an adult are increasing at a rapid rate. Culturally, we think becoming an adult is a matter of turning 18; however, that has never been true. Cultures recognize individuals as adults not based on age, but skill set. The skill set to be an adult in any generation can be roughly understood as what it takes to get a job. In 1950, you needed a basic education and sometimes, if you were a laborer, joining the military, or working in a family industry, you didn’t even need a high school diploma. Were 18 year-olds in 1950 more mature than 18 year-olds in 2016? Maybe, but culturally, much less was expected of them to be considered mature. Contrast that with the skill set necessary to be employed (considered an adult) in 2016: high school diploma, usually a bachelors degree, maybe a masters degree, advanced competency in computers, written and verbal communication skills, and more. Here’s some circumstantial evidence; my paternal grandfather supported a family of six in the 1950s-70s on his salary as a bread delivery man. He had no high school diploma. Today, according to the Economic Policy Institute, that same family would need to have an income of $70,000 to “get-by” in Nashville, Tennessee. While it is possible for someone without a high school diploma to earn that today, it’s very unlikely. To be marketable for a $70,000 position, one must attain a high skill set. In short, the skills necessary to be an adult today are much, much higher than in previous generations.
So what makes this a perfect storm? While it is increasingly more difficult to reach adulthood, our students have increasingly less adults who are investing in their maturation. If we were to draw a graph of this “Prefect Storm” it might look like this.
Teachers are being forced more and more to teach to the tests that determine whether or not they stay employed. They have begun educating our children towards a test instead of towards adulthood competency. Teachers, like coaches (and even youth pastors), are finding themselves more and more in a position where children are treated like commodities rather than individuals in whom we hope to invest. In other words, there are less and less adults who are actually interested in helping your children reach adulthood skill sets, though there is more and more required of them. The result of this this dual phenomena? Stress. It’s the same way any of us would feel if we were given a difficult task with inadequate tools to accomplish it. So how do we, as a church family, help?
Chap Clark is the leading mind in Youth Ministry Studies (yes, it is a legitimate field of research, I promise), and not only was he one of the first to diagnose this current problem, I think he is one of the only ones to find legitimate solutions.
His current book is Adoptive Youth Ministry and I’d like for us to read it together and begin a conversation about how to build a church that is intentional about raising its children together. If you’re interested in buying a copy of his book, allow me to order it for you and help us all save some money by purchasing in bulk. If you don’t think you’re going to have time to read along with us, I’ll try to make the subsequent emails still helpful while not using too much inside language or infringing on copyright laws. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, let me know by Monday of next week and I’ll order them on Tuesday.
Thanks for entrusting me with your awesome children!