Kids. . . Biggest Problem, Issue, and Opportunity

Jacob Eckeberger
October 20th, 2016

We’re excited to have Walt Mueller as one of our NYWC speakers. This blog post is a great start to the conversations he’ll be navigating in his seminar: 5 YOUTH CULTURE MEGATRENDS EVERY YOUTH WORKER MUST RECOGNIZE. Check out more information HERE

I stepped out of full-time local-church youth ministry 27 years ago (Geez. . . it seems like just yesterday). My step out was in order to step into full-time youth culture watching. So, for the last 27 years I’ve been working primarily with youth workers and parents in an effort to help them increase their effectiveness in their ministries with the kids they know and love. Both groups – parents and youth workers – consistently fire difficult and thoughtful questions my way about kids and the rapidly changing world in which they live. As I look back over the years, there are three questions that have been asked the most: 1) What’s the biggest problem facing kids today? 2) What’s the biggest cultural issue kids have to deal with in today’s world? 3) What’s the greatest opportunity for those who work with or parent kids? Good questions. . . all of them. My answers are fairly simple. . .

1) What’s the biggest problem facing kids today?

The answer to this one has remained the same since the first day it was asked. The answer is the same answer I’d give if you replaced “kids” with “parents,” “Youth workers,” or even the word “you” . . . as in me. It’s the problem humanity’s been facing since that fateful encounter in the Garden that we read about in Genesis 3. The problem in our brokenness and sin. Everything difficult in our world and in our lives flows out of this brokenness. It touches us all and it touches every part of our lives. Paul told the Romans that “all have sinned.” When the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah he said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick.” As a youth worker, I realized pretty quickly that I was a broken youth worker working with broken kids. As a parent, I’ve realized that I’m a broken dad raising broken kids. I’m convinced that every negative cultural issue and problem flows out of this reality.

2) What’s the biggest cultural issue kids have to deal with in today’s world?

Social media? Drugs? Hyper-sexuality? Pornography? Narcissism? Country music? Those are all very real issues kids face today (I’m joking about the country music. . . or maybe not!). But none of those issues are what I’d choose to put at the top of the list. Instead, I’d have to answer by saying “the dis-integrated self.” What does that mean? In a nutshell, our kids live compartmentalized selves. For our professing Christian kids, specifically, this takes the form of failing to integrate their faith into every nook and cranny of life. It’s a very real issue for us adults as we follow Christ. Does our faith inform how we work, play, relate, think, study, marry, etc.? and, does our faith inform what we think when it comes to the difficult issues of the day? Or is our faith a matter kept separate from a select few or overwhelming majority of aspects of our lives. We fail to recognize and live out what the Theologian Abraham Kuyper once said: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” We are called to live integrated lives.

3) What’s the greatest opportunity for those who work with or parent kids?

I think the answer to this one is pretty straightforward and simple, yet easily forgotten when we get wrapped up in the busyness of keeping a youth ministry going. Our greatest opportunity is also our greatest calling and responsibility. . . that is, to invite kids into a lifetime of knowing and following Jesus.  . . in every nook and cranny of their lives. While lamenting his own brokenness in his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote this: “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Youth ministry sure ain’t easy. But it sure is a high calling and high privilege. Be encouraged! And never forget that the biggest problems and issues, are actually your biggest youth ministry opportunities!

Dr. Walt Mueller has been working with young people and families for more than 35 years. He’s the founder and president of the CENTER FOR PARENT/YOUTH UNDERSTANDING, a non-profit organization that serves schools, churches, and community organizations worldwide. He writes on youth culture and family issues and is a regular contributor to a variety of magazines and journals, a blogger, and an author of nine books. Walt and his wife, Lisa, have four grown children and brand-new twin grandchildren.

Jacob Eckeberger

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.