Crossing the Cultural Divide

 
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To the Student:

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” - Proverbs 19:20 

To the Parent:

By now, many of our kids are back to school and university. In this post we will briefly look at some of the issues that our kids face, and the demands placed on them by unrelenting media outlets and cultural messages as they head back into ‘the world’ where their training in the church to be ‘salt and light’ will most certainly be tested. Hopefully, this article will give some practical tips for engaging this generation of young people in a meaningful way so that they may take the (above) charge from the book of Proverbs seriously. 

Few people would argue the central role of culture and media in the lives of today’s students. Shouts of, “Whuddup dawg?” or, “Sup Dude?” and “You da bomb” can cause most English teachers to hyperventilate and shudder at the verbiage used in today’s school hallways. There has always been a bit of a language barrier between the generations; but today, it seems more like a contrived language fort built by students to confound adults and keep them at arm’s length or further. 

Ironically, one of the typical marks of adolescence is a desire to be understood by someone who can relate to their lives…Today’s media outlets are always ready with a listening ear. Young people typically become easily enamored by pop music artists and actors who seem to share in their struggle for identity. Right or wrong, today’s often struggling, vulnerable teen identifies with the language of today’s media, music and pop culture, which often meets them right amid their struggles for identity. 

Today’s high-tech world can assault students with enormous amounts of information (and often misinformation) that is not always filtered by a discerning ear before reaching their impressionable minds. Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, calls this assault, ‘the media torrent’ or ‘hyper-media’, in his book, Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives. 

Educators have long understood and capitalized on the relationship between repetition and learning. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, the average teen spends more than six to eight hours a day exposed to this super saturation of media material. That is a heavy dose of repetitive exposure to messages from various media producers that propagate the idea, “You should be miserable and completely dissatisfied with your present lifestyle and indulgence is the solution.” One theologian noted that this overstimulation of their senses causes what he calls an “entertaining of themselves into boredom.” 

Author and essayist, GK Chesterton, once quipped, “An open mind like an open mouth does have a purpose, and that is to close down upon something solid; otherwise, it could become like a city sewer that rejects absolutely nothing.” Students need someone who can help them sort out the torrent of media information with a critical mindset. As adults, we can help them if we understand them. 

The acronym R.U.L.E.R. may help you to “cross the cultural divide” and meet your kids right where they are as you strive to build relationships with them in the coming school year and for the rest of their lives. 

Recognize

Popular youth culture (i.e. music, advertising, movies, TV) has a profound influence on the way kids think, act, spend their resources and relate to their peers, teachers, families and environment. 

Things certainly aren’t the way they used to be; but it is up to adults to make cultural adjustments and then to hold kids accountable. 

Understand

There is a natural, generational “cultural divide” and resulting language barrier that exists between adult and adolescent culture. 

You will probably never comprehensively understand their culture; but you can understand and identify with their desire for individuality. 

Listen

While it is difficult for adults to communicate within the context of popular youth culture, it is often impossible for an adolescent to communicate in adult culture because of a modicum of life experience. 

We hear kids with our ears; but it requires an open mind to listen to students and the struggles of their hearts. 

Evaluate

For us adults to maximize our relationships with young people and effectively communicate the gospel message across the “cultural divide,” we must learn to understand and interpret the language and environment of today’s popular youth culture and meet young people “right where they are.” This is not easy and requires an intentional commitment on our part. 

Consider spending some time watching the shows and listening to the music of the young people in your world in order to let them know that you are willing to take the time to understand them and the culture that they live in.  

The apostle Paul made it his business to understand his culture in a sermon he delivered on Mars Hill in Acts 17. It is a classic example of a gospel presentation that meets the listeners where they are, and then presents the gospel message in both a logical and biblical fashion. Paul started his message by addressing the false beliefs of those gathered there that day and then used those beliefs as a way of presenting the gospel message to them. 

Respond

True Character is forged out on the anvil of relationships that are based on truth, trust, and a personal willingness to seek the highest and best interest of others. 

Our response to this generation of young people is crucial. It is our faithful Christian duty to provide vision for; and help young people establish goals that are in keeping with our Christian call to glorify the living God. 

*The pastors and staff here at Orchard Hill Church pray that this will be a profitable school year for you and your kids. We pray that they will grow in knowledge and wisdom as new academic challenges and social pressures approach. We pray that the Lord will protect your child’s heart and mind, and that they will remember the Lord in their interactions with others. We pray that they would seek and find the right friends and influences. And we pray for you parents as you navigate those often turbulent waters in the scholastic setting that you are temperate and loving as you guide your children towards the final finish line where they can join the apostle Paul in saying, “I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” And we ask these things in the name of our great Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!


George joined the Adult Ministry team in September 2018. Prior to Orchard Hill, he served as a Senior Pastor of a church in the Pittsburgh area. George also served for 30 years in law enforcement, and was nominated and awarded Pennsylvania Police Officer of the Year in 2001.

He is a graduate of Trinity School for Ministry and hold his MA in Church History/Theology.

George is married to Amanda and has been blessed with eight children, four of whom were adopted with special needs.