Teaching: Knowing Youth Culture

The work of a youth leader is often very similar to that of a cross-cultural missionary.

Teens have their own communication style, language, relational rules, and cultural traditions.  Knowing their culture is not the most important thing you should know, the Bible and walking in obedience with God is always foremost. However, you will be better able to communicate with youth if you know their culture. And there are ways you can become more familiar with what teens base their worldview on. Here are some examples:

•    Talk to teens. What do they like? What do they dislike? What do they spend their time doing? What do they spend their money on? What movies are they watching, what music are they listening to? All these things are little windows into youth culture.

•    Listen to music aimed at teens. This may mean watching MTV occasionally, or tuning into a radio station you might not ordinarily listen to. Download a song of one of the bands you hear them talking about. Music is HUGE to teens. Know what they like.

•    Watch what they watch on television. You don’t have to watch a whole program to “get it.” But duck in and catch onto what they are taking in week-to-week.

•    Buy a teen magazine. Read it. You’ll understand teenage worries, stress points, etc.

•    Study advertisements aimed at teens. Marketers know teens better than you do. If they use a certain angle in an advertisement, there’s a reason. Watch television ads, look at the print ads in magazines, or take a walk at the mall.

•    Spend some time online. Your teens spend a lot of their time there. Ask them what websites they visit and go check them out. Proceed with caution.

•    Ask a teenager to play their favorite video game with them. “Gaming” is a huge industry, fueled by teens and young adults.

•    Find culture links on this website or seek them online. They’ll keep you up to date on teen trends: they move fast!

•    Get in a school. Substitute teach, volunteer, or ask permission to eat lunch once a week in the cafeteria. Watch. Listen. Interact. You’ll learn a lot.

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