5 Shifted Cultural Expectations for Families in 2020

Jason Dunbar
December 15th, 2020

Can we be finished with 2020 already?! I’m so ready for a sense of “normalcy” again. I long for the days when I can take my family to the park so my kids can play with their friends and when I can plan youth events where students can actually occupy the same physical space! I long for the need for restrictions to no longer exist.

If you’ve been dreaming of those days as well, you’re not alone. I’d say we have all been there at some point throughout this year. As a youth pastor, I have been pulling my hair out. Like so many of my fellow youth workers, I want so badly to be able to give those high-fives and fist bumps and see my students smiling faces.

The reality is, youth ministry may never look the same. Actually, I would go ahead and say that it won’t. However, the amazing thing about God is that He never runs out of grace and inspiration. Just because our world has shifted, doesn’t mean that his Gospel has. We just need a new way to share it.

Our culture has changed so much in the past year. Every family has been affected by 2020. Expectations have been turned up on their heads and plans have been shattered. Parents and students alike have been struggling. Many are anxious about the future of the world, while others are struggling with loneliness.

So, how can we, as youth workers, be better prepared to support and nurture our families spiritually and to support and resource them through these changes? Let me share with you 5 shifted, cultural expectations for families in 2020 and beyond. 

Re-discovering Family Members

Families are spending more time with each other than they have in years, yet there is still a staggering amount of loneliness reported among our teens. While physically, families are spending more time together (due to quarantines, schooling from home, working from home, etc.), many of them don’t really “know” each other.

They are now being put into situations that force them to re-discover (or discover for the first time) their core-family relationships. This can be extremely healthy if achieved well, but many struggle with this, and it can cause strain. 

More Social Awareness

One of the major topics of 2020 has been social injustice. This is a topic many families never discussed before. The truth is, many students have never had to explore most of these topics very deeply, and therefore have never discussed it with their families.

Now it has become a daily topic of conversation, and has created division in many families. Parents and children are forced to do some deep self-reflection in determining what they value. Families are beginning to “open their eyes” and really think about where they stand on important issues.

More Open Conversations

For years, parents and children had limited (and even more controlled) exposure to sensitive subjects (political, social, sexual, etc.). However, with the pandemic came an overwhelming shift to online interactions.

With that shift, children (and parents) have been exposed to so much more than ever before. This has brought up many questions, which have sparked great conversations. Parents are being more open to discuss sensitive topics and children are learning about things at a much younger age than ever before.

Extended Range of Influence

With discussions surrounding social injustices being so pivotal in 2020, we have seen how one person, or one small group pushing for change, can have a major impact on the world around them. This has impacted families, as one or more members make a public push for change.

This public proclamation not only has an influence on the individual, but also on their family and all those who associate with them. Families now are realizing their influence spreads much further than ever before.

Being More Real

For years, school and work were mostly separate from home. But with the shift to online school and working from home, the two worlds have collided. People are “zooming” from home in their sweats with the dishes piled up behind them.

There is no longer a desire for “putting on a professional face” as much as there is a desire for people to just be real and relatable, and to get the job done. Families are beginning to see that there are more similarities between them and other families than they ever thought. People are realizing they can just be themselves and still be successful in their fields.

Cultural shift within families is nothing new. All families make changes throughout the course of time. However, 2020 is a year like no other. Changes have been escalated and sped up. Family cultures have been impacted drastically and expectations have changed, and continue to change.

As youth workers, we want to encourage family conversations, especially on sensitive subjects. However, we also need to help resource both parents and students on the Biblical truths that come with these subjects so they can be as productive and healthy as possible. These shifts aren’t exhaustive, but they are a good start to see where families are heading into 2021.

Jason Dunbar

Jason Dunbar Jason has been a student pastor for almost 15 years. He is currently serving as youth and young adult pastor in Bowling Green, KY. His wife, Caitlin serves alongside him in ministry. They have two beautiful daughters, Charleston and Lucy. Instagram: @jasondunbar00

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.