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3 Family Trends That Have Changed Over The Last 10 Years

Eric Turner
November 26th, 2019

As the world waited for the first decade of the new millennium to come to an end ten years ago, the majority of people were buying movie tickets to either Avatar or The Twilight Saga: New MoonLady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas had the top songs with “Poker Face” and “Boom Boom Pow”.  Phone technology was growing by leaps and bounds with the explosion of new apps, and things like group messaging and voice dialing on the ground-breaking iPhone 3GS.  Not to mention, having a Blackberry in 2009 was still a thing! So much has changed since then and now we are just a few weeks away from the start of our second decade of this millennium.  It’s a great time to reflect, not just on the pop culture trends of the last decade, but on the top trends that have impacted the family the most.  

TREND 1: TECHNOLOGY

While social media, iPhones and smart devices have been around for a little longer than a decade, the impact has never been felt so strong in every part of our lives.  It’s hard to imagine what an evening as a family looks like without technology.  Most of us have grown accustomed to 2-day shipping from Amazon on nearly anything and having access to the internet anywhere and everywhere.  

Furthermore, social media has connected us and separated us at the same time.  I have students who seem to know more about their favorite YouTube celebrity or Instagram model than they do about real people in their everyday lives.   With streaming technology, social media and computers in nearly every hand at all times, things like family dinners have become almost extinct.  

It’s gotten to a point where it seems like we have to be overstimulated to be stimulated!  In other words, we feel bored if we are just watching one screen at a time!  

Not only has family time suffered, but how we relate to each other has suffered.   There are so many steaming and gaming options these days, the likelihood of the entire family agreeing on a show to watch together is about as rare as President Trump not tweeting for the day!   Instead, everyone gets on their own device, and little to no time is spent together as a family. Relationships take time, effort and dedication.  They are messy and confusing at times.  But we can’t allow technology to take over and be a substitute for actual relationships.  Some parents have even admitted to me that their primary communication with their teenager is through text messages.  However, the reality is that relationships can’t be meaningful or purposeful through text messages alone, not to mention trying to parent that way.  

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TREND 2: CHANGING SOCIAL MORES

Things that are accepted by society have changed drastically over the last decade.  It was not that long ago that recreational marijuana was viewed negatively, and genders were clearly defined.  Today, our students are exposed to new social constructs that were considered extreme just a few years ago.  As parents, we have to navigate these ever-changing social rules and norms at lightning speed.  Making sure our kids understand the dangers of sex, alcohol and porn seem like small fish now.  Today, parents have to be proactive in talking to their kids about transgenderism, gender fluidity, vaping, sexting, gender pronouns, legal marijuana, revenge porn, socialism, global warming and so much more!  Social mores seem to be changing daily.  How are parents supposed to keep up? 
This is where parents need to be in the Word of God and plugged into a local church.  Since the beginning of time, society has been changing. So, in a lot of ways, it shouldn’t surprise us how much our culture is changing.  Yet the word of God remains the same.  God doesn’t change and his moral standard doesn’t change.  But if we as parents aren’t grounded in the Word, we will be blown away in the shifting sands of culture.  

As youth leaders, we need to be diligent in partnering with parents and supporting them in these difficult and often confusing conversations they are hopefully having with their teens.   At the very least, reach out to your parents once or twice a semester asking if they are having these conversations with their kids and how it went?  If they have, ask them how you can help or partner with them.  The church should be a primary source of information and support to parents. If they haven’t had those conversations, encourage them to at least start the conversation and let them know that their kid has, more than likely, already been exposed to divergent, social mores.

TREND 3: THE NON-NUCLEAR FAMILY

The final trend I’d like to take a look at is the non-nuclear family. The decline of the “nuclear” family has been in decline since the 1960’s and has drastically continued to change over the last decade.  Even two-parent households that look nuclear on the outside are not necessarily made up of a specific child’s two biological parents.  Since “No-fault Divorce” became legal in all 50 states, blended families and single parent families have continued to be on the rise.  Obviously, it varies greatly from region to region and even church to church but as youth leaders, it’s important to understand and even program around the fact that many students are in blended, or single parent homes. It is also common for both parents to work outside the home.   On the surface, it may seem like it does not impact your ministry strategy, but I want to challenge you that it does and it should!

For example, if you have a student whose parents are divorced, they might be going between Mom and Dad’s house every other weekend.  Or you might have a student who recently “gained” two siblings through one of their parent’s remarrying.  This drastically changes the dynamic in the home.  Obviously, single parent homes have certain challenges that other households may not face.  My point is, that regardless of the reasons for a student belonging to a non-nuclear family, it’s important to understand this reality and work to provide youth ministry programming and resources with them in mind.  So many of our churches in general are structured to best serve the nuclear family, even though that may not be the primary make-up of the community. 

So, it might be helpful to start asking yourself questions like, “How does the timing of a trip impact my non-nuclear families?”  Or, “How does this sermon series apply to students who don’t come from a nuclear family?”  And if you’re really brave, you might even ask, “What are the non-nuclear families in your community struggling with the most?” and “How can you help meet those needs?” God may have designed the nuclear family to be the best structure to raise children, but the reality we live in is much different and isn’t going to change anytime soon.  Therefore, as the church we need to hold to the truth and perfection of God’s design, while addressing the needs and real-life issues of the people within the reach of our church.  

If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that while the world is unpredictably, unpredictable, God’s Word and ways are constant.  No matter what culture comes up with next, God has established the Christ-centered family as the footing to navigate the storm.  I believe the culture is won and lost first and foremost within the context of the family.  Therefore, a thriving youth group should have less to do with numbers and more to do with successfully partnering with the family to help students mature in Christ.    

Eric Turner

Eric has been working with high school and college students for over 15 years including more than a decade of full time youth ministry. He has a B.A. in Christian Ministry and M.A. in Theological Studies. He currently lives in Oklahoma City with his amazing wife and three kids where he is a theology teacher at a college-prep Christian high school.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.

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