youth and young adults:
A Check on your own attitudes and responses to the world. Who is that “Man in the Mirror”?
By Jenna Blackwell
Do you listen to Michael Jackson? It can be difficult not to sing along to songs like Beat It, I Want You Back, or Man in the Mirror. A friend recently played a Jackson song as a trivia night question, and while it didn’t create an uproar, it certainly started discussion!
Not sure what I’m talking about? Welcome to cancel culture – the culture that ‘cancels’ a person, group or organisation due to a conflict in values. It is now at work in our community today.
Predominantly, it happens when there is a perception of immoral or unethical production, content, or in Jackson’s case, inappropriate behaviour with young people.
A Growing Awareness
People in today’s society, especially younger adults, are affected by mistrust, abuse and non-transparency. It may be because of their own experiences or learnt second-hand from the experiences of their parents. It includes the unbridled use of the planet’s resources, often fuelled by greed and unsustainable practices. Young people have an awareness in their hearts of the need for justice, equality, and fairness.
People in today’s society, especially younger adults, have been affected by mistrust, abuse and non-transparency.
The rise of clothing companies who value ethical practices and sustainability is a response to the is a concern of many, including the younger generation. This is because consumers boycott companies due to unethical treatment of workers. And more younger adults switch to ethical banks and superannuation funds.
Recently, our Mission Director, Stephen Baxter wrote, “The challenges facing churches are not due to the Church gone wrong, but a world grown different . . . God uses times like these to reform and renew his Church.”
Actions Speak Louder
So, what does this have to do with ministry for children, youth, and young adults?
These days, character speaks more than competency, and trust must be built and maintained. We have a message that needs to be heard by those who have never heard it, and by those who have heard a different variation of it.
It is a message of hope in Jesus Christ – not just for eternal life, but for transformation, change and love – here and now.
In these days of cancel culture, when character, integrity and aligning actions speak volumes (and the lack of such speaks even louder), we have a message that needs to be heard.
Since I started working for Tas Baptists a few years ago, several youth groups have shut down. Two new ones started, but overall, the youth scene has significantly decreased. This is sad and frustrating. And, while I am prone to take responsibility upon myself, we all have a part to play.
If younger people are willing to pay more for something that has a greater impact, what’s stopping them connecting with the cost of following Jesus?
Ponder these Points
As we imagine how to re-engage with younger generations (or any of society), let me present you with some points to ponder:
- Following Jesus is costly. If younger people are willing to pay more for something that has a greater impact, what’s stopping them connecting with the cost of following Jesus?
- Is it purely a lack of knowing or hearing? Or is it not being exampled?
- Is it a lack of trust based on history – how we’ve treated people and the planet?
- How well do speak of, and example, our Jesus of compassion, mercy, truth and forgiveness?
- Do we value their voice? Are we too caught up in our well-known and well-loved songs?
- Quite practically, is our tea and coffee ethically produced and traded? In other words, do we care more about Kingdom values or dollar values?
Checking that Man in the Mirror
So, I have two questions for you to consider as you go about your work today, your church meetings and your Bible study. Let me challenge you to check yourself in the mirror.
- What are you doing with Jesus’ message of hope?
- How can you (and your church) share it, and example it, with the young people in your life?
Maybe today, you can take one small step towards sharing that message of hope with our young people.
Jenna Blackwell was, until recently, overseeing the Baptist youth and young adults’ ministry in Tasmania. She is the Tasmanian Baptists’ Leadership Development Coach, and a member of the AB Next Generations taskforce.
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