Dale Puckett, Networking and Mobilization Coordinator, YouthHOPE
Recently, I watched a music video parody put out by a church here in the States. The video was an opener for a sermon series about Millennials. Initially, I was fairly offended for this generation. In it, the song talked about stereotype after stereotype that define Millennials today. After reading the story behind the video (it was used before a message to dispel these stereotypes) I decided to not jump on my social media soapbox and shout out loud.
Now I know every generation has stereotypes, including my own Generation X. However, I feel we have to be very careful with the labels the Church places on these young people. (Including Generation Z - those born after 1994). When we buy into these stereotypes, we begin to treat a population of people differently. We begin to alienate and/or marginalize them.
Often times, the world desires to use youth for their own personal gain. They seek to exploit, exclude, or entertain them, in hopes youth will generate more power, political gain, or wealth for them...sometimes all three. It's a strategy to dominate the world.
If the church isn't careful, we can fall right in line with these thoughts. The church might not think it's exploiting or excluding youth, but when we treat them as if they cannot contribute to the Body, then we are doing just that. And when they have the "freedom" to walk away, they will. And unfortunately, statistics are showing this to be a reality.
The area of entertaining youth in the church might be more of a touchy subject and difficult to talk about. However, the church is not in a place to battle against the entertainment industry. Financially it's not a reality and honestly, we shouldn't turn Jesus into something youth should be entertained by. In John 6 the crowds left Jesus when He taught some very hard things...when they stopped being entertained. In fact Jesus asked the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Their response. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
So Church, where do we land? I believe (as does YouthHOPE and its partners) youth should be EMPOWERED. Empowerment is about positioning youth to be able to lead well, to make an impact on their culture, and to fulfill God's plan for their lives. When the Church empowers youth it strengthens the body of Christ and accomplishes what Jesus modeled and taught.