Friday, April 16, 2010

The coloinzation of youth culture and why it doesn't work.

I spent this afternoon chatting with a friend of mine who happens to share my job title about the intricacies about pioneering effective youth work in a Canadian city.  We talked a lot about some of the old methods of taking "good ideas" and making  those the focus of the work.  The ideas are fun and entertaining, but do little to actually challenge the inner core of youth and make a lasting impact on them.

That ideal worked in a society that had shared values and everyone had the same idea of what it was that we were suppose to do to be "good people".  However today we live in a post-christian society and everyone does as they see fit.  The church that used to be the center of the community is now sitting empty on the fringes.  It takes a new vision to reach out to the different societies represented within the same country, city and neighrborhood.  And it takes more than just a good idea to make significant life long changes within the youth culture.  We need to truly understand our focus and be able to clearly identify why we are doing any of our events or day-to-day activities.

When I got home I had open on my computer screen an editorial comment from the Baltimore Sun sitting open on my screen that read, "You can't apply middle class values to troubled youth". However sometimes we can try to change the behavior of the youth to better represent something that we are comfortable with.  However external changes do little to impact the community nor the individual.  What we need is to move beyond values and get into the core what shapes those values.  The behaviors change naturally, even if the outside appearance never does.  Ok so the idea isn't my own.  Josh McDowell wrote a book called, "Beyond Belief to Conviction."  He says in the book that just because we believe in something doesn't make it true.  So in that case do we even want youth to have middle class values.  Middle class are generally people that try to appear that everything is ok, but on the inside everything is falling apart.  Troubled youth generally have no false illusions.  They know that they are messed up.  Which do you think is more healthy?

We may believe that our way of life is better, but that doesn't make it true.  So lets drop the good ideas and look at what these kids actually need.  Lets stop trying to fix them, and start living along side them.  We may find that when we drop the labels of classes that we have more common values than we thought. 

Also on a side, not all values that we share are good - true - or right.  When we stop trying to colonize people to look and act like us we may actually be able to impact them.  (or more often, they may impact us.  As fellow humans not the occupying majority. We are called to serve others not change others.  I'd love your feedback on this hastily written blog post.
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