Today's generation of young students is causing concern among some youth leaders who see increasing fallout from the church and an increasingly secularized culture. Other leaders are just the opposite. They see a generation full of potential and passionately following Christ.
The New Year prompted international youth ministry Dare 2 Share to assemble the top five teen predictions to watch for in 2007. The Dare 2 Share team predicted the following adolescent trends for the new year:
1. There will be an increase of teen volunteers or new programs for community involvement managed entirely online.
Teens will continue to be a generation that is a study in contradictions, i.e. being involved in the community while isolated in their bedroom. You will see them exhibit unapologetic self-righteousness, then flip the switch and be a paragon of tolerance. Teens today are moving in a direction that is comfortable with conflicting worldviews. For example, they will spend time and resources on "me" items (ipods, downloads, games, etc.), and at the same time spend time and resources giving back to the community and others around them. They exhibit strong individualism AND communal-ism (Everything today is customized, but teens want to be part of a community too).
2. Major media production houses will follow the lead of Christian production companies and begin to include spiritual elements to their releases.
This is a generation that increasingly responds to faith-based marketing like the Christian productions of Amazing Grace, Left Behind video games, etc. Sales and stats are showing a rising popularity among teens to explore spiritual themes. Companies and businesses are responding to this with a variety of options for this generation and in 2007, more movies, TV shows, and video games will be released with spiritual or faith based elements in them – specifically targeted to the teen audience.
3. Teens will increasingly individualize their beliefs
This is a generation that embraces a "Starbucks" spirituality. Teens today are used to customizing every aspect of their life, so why wouldn’t this spill over into the area of spiritual beliefs? When forming their opinions about faith-based matters, picture most 13-18 year olds ordering up a Grande Carmel-Kabbalah latte with a dash of Buddhism and a Hindu Krishna cookie on the side.
4. Student-led campaigns will be created to raise awareness of social justice issues.
This generation is already known as a generation that is drawn to community relationships and activism. From the Gap/Bono iPod for Aids relief, to the uber success of myspace.com, it is obvious that teens today are tribal and feel a strong need to make a difference in the world. They really do exhibit a "think globally, act locally" attitude with the addition of global concerns as well. It wouldn’t surprise us to see students create campaigns that raise awareness of child prostitution in Asia or orphaned kid soldiers in Sierra Leone.
5. Students will no longer see value in formal education as much as street education.
This is a generation of "what have you done for me lately?" teens. Much like the young people of the 1960’s, these adolescents do not have an inherent respect for titles and/or positions. Yet unlike the Woodstock folks, they generally aren’t actively anti-establishment. What registers with them is personal authenticity and passion about life regardless of background, education, or societal "rank." Formal universities and seminaries are going to have their work cut out for them to keep teens engaged in pursuing a formal degree.