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How Most Adults View The 21st Century Student

Most adults have negative perceptions about today’s adolescents.  Not every adult, but a lot of adults, follow the assumption that the students of today’s society are only getting worse.  They are nothing but problems.  Adults, generally, believe that students are:

(5)  Lazy and unmotivated

(4)  Entitled and spoiled

(3)  Narcissistic.  I write about this teenage narcissistic epidemic here

(2)  Disrespectful towards authority

(1)  Cynical

How you ever noticed how mean adults can be to students?

It’s very damaging to them.  And unfortunately, these negative beliefs only reinforce students’ abandonment issues. When students know adults don’t like them and view them negatively — it only forces students to isolate and retaliate more.

Chap Clark, in HURT, states:

Adolescents have been abandoned.  They have, therefore, created their own world, a world that is designed to protect them from the destructive forces and wiles of the adult community.  (p. 21)

“Midadolescents believe that few if any adults genuinely care about them.” (p. 68)

This is why youth workers must stand for this next generation.  It’s our job to persuade adults to stop making these negative assumptions and start inviting more adults to care for the students in our churches.  While adults have serious reservations about students, the reality is that students need more adults caring for them — more than ever.  The ongoing support and guidance offered by adults has been at a great decline in the past decade.  Dr. James Comer (Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center) believes this is a serious crisis America must fix.  Adults really need to see students as a group they should nurture and invest in.  In the book:  Disconnected, Chap Clark claims that students are deeply longing:

  • to belong
  • to be taken seriously
  • to matter
  • for a safe place
  • to be uniquely them
  • to be wanted

And God, parents and adults are the only ones who can provide what today’s students are longing for.

What assumptions am I missing?  Are there any defining qualities (either negative or positive) of today’s teens that you have observed?

So how do youth pastors — student pastors — youth workers — and even teachers begin to change these negative assumptions about today’s students?

What are ways to invite more adults into the lives of today’s students?

 

 

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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One comment

  1. Thanks Jeremy. I’ve read a lot of really negative things about youth lately and it is kind of depressing. To share an experience, I moved back to my hometown after college and bumped into an old youth leader and he suggested we get together for coffee. I got together with him for coffee and he proceeded to try to persuade me to rejoin the church – in his defense the church we attended was very large. It was very funny because I was one of the few people I knew in college who never left the church. I realize the youth leader probably didn’t think I was interested in religion as a youth because I didn’t like to talk to him in a meaningful way. Of course I didn’t like to talk to him in part because he had no faith in me and I knew it. I actually have a very high view of this leader as I learned a lot from him but I think it is symbolic of the problem. I had the opportunity to help out with a Wednesday night youth program for a couple of years and in many senses I was a terrible leader: I couldn’t prepare, I stuttered, it was highly stressful for me, and I was completely inarticulate most of the time. But the strange thing was the youth always listened. I think it was because I always believed in them in that they are all capable of doing great things if they choose and most of the other leaders didn’t.

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