The Generation Gap

First Published January 1992 - The First Pair of Cleats on Church Family-Based Youth Ministry

In my ten years of youth ministry, I have always held to the belief that the parents’ place in youth ministry is in parent meetings and helping out with food or transportation on an occasional basis.It was a rare discovery to find parents who could serve as a volunteer staff member.

The reasons for this were that youth in their years of struggling for identity would be cramped with their parents in the youth meeting.The youth group is the place where youth could share their struggles of growing up and try on new roles and new expressions.

Something happened recently though that has caused me to rethink this belief.In my youth group we have a habit of welcoming newcomers with wild clapping and cheering.One night one of our newer girls brought her mother.She stood and introduced her mother and the youth broke out in the loudest and wildest welcome.It gave me the chills.This mom was more than welcomed to be a part of “the group.”

The thought came to me—maybe this generation gap is actually one of Satan’s schemes to steal, kill and destroy this generation.

The increase of the destructive behavior by adolescents is common knowledge.What kept me as an adolescent from getting into so much trouble was 1) fear of my parents finding out; 2) fear of the impending lecture; and 3) fear of hurting my parents.I had plenty of opportunities to be in trouble but this “gapless” relationship I had with my parents prevented that.Simple knowledge tells us that the more communication there is between parents and teens, the less trouble the teen will be in.When there is distance and miscommunication, the choice to get into trouble is made easy.

For years we as youthworkers may have been attributing to this generation gap—sometimes even becoming surrogate parents to youth who have parents.Instead of attributing to the generation gap, we should be eliminating it.

Our youth ministries should be places where parents feel welcomed—even applauded wildly.I know, it’s hard enough to make visitors feel welcomed.If parents see teenagers being ministered to, especially their teenager, they will feel welcomed.

More than parents being welcomed at a youth meeting, parents ought to be a part of the meeting and even the volunteer staff team.Why?1) Parent’s knowledge and experience can be of great benefit.2) Other youth might really like someone’s parents thus dawning on that youth that their parents may actually be “cool.”3) Youth who may not have parents or have quasi-parents can form healthy relationships with other parents.4) Youth who are experimenting with new found independence steps can find youth group a safe environment to test these steps “with” their parents.5) The parent and teenager “gapless” relationship can be nurtured developing that closeness that prevents bad choices.

Your mind may have immediately thought about a teenager who would hate to have his/her parents at his/her youth meeting.He/she should would react or clam up and it would seem to have devastating effects on the work that has begun in him/her.But I believe the core of the father heart of God is to close this generation gap and restore the family.“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”Malachi 4:6.

This generation gap is a post-World War II development.It has not always been there nor is it a part of the healthy development of teenagers.In fact, growing up a teenager today tends to be very unhealthy.Our youth ministries can close that gap and turn the hearts of the children to their fathers and mothers.

This is an “out there” thought.Out there on the Wild Frontier.