I served for a few years as a youth ministry intern while I was in college. One of the primary aspects of youth ministry is the need to listen to your students. By far, the greatest challenge brought out on a daily basis was listening to those students with a straight face. Sadly, when I survey the fun-house landscape of modern parenting, I struggle with the same problem.
USA Today boasts a column entitled Teen’s and Sex In Dad’s House. The column advocates two primary points: teens will have sex and parents should high five them on their way upstairs to do it. The idea is that if teenagers feel safe to explore their sexuality in their parents’ house with their blessing, fewer teens will get pregnant early in life. I find that contention highly dubious. I have no doubt there will be more sex. But, where I come from, more sex usually means more babies.
On the other hand, the column does make some compelling arguments. First, Angelina Jolie lived with her boyfriend in her mom’s house at the age of 14. So if there is any authority to which we can appeal, Angelina Jolie is obviously the one to pick, right? Second, all the kids are doing it. Statistics show that a lot of teens (26%) stuck in their parents’ houses all alone will grow into young adults who cohabitate with a lover. From this we are to assume it is a good idea for them to start cohabitation sooner. Remarkable idea, really. By this same logic, I can finally stop treating my two year as if he is two! I mean, he is going to ten one day, so I might as well be done with diapers, sippy cups, and those horribly annoying gates at the top and bottom of my staircase. I’m not negligent. I’m progressive.
Article such as the one in question leave me with one unassailable conviction, the kids I used to counsel through hidden snickers have turned into adults too childish to be funny. A recent article in Newsweek captured the zeitgeist well with their cover article exploring the Intentionally Childless Life. The article explained that many women are choosing to never have children because the child could inconvenience them. I understand; my two year old hates to pick up his toys, put on his shoes, and take his bath. It’s just inconvenient. The average age of marriage has been pushed back to almost 28 for men and 27 for women. My church, which intentionally ministers to families, is considering how to develop parenting resources for parents of post-college live-in children, because there are a lot of them! I know there are many contributing factors in these cultural trends, so I do not claim to know the solution. But the accumulated impact of them all paints a sad picture for the process of maturity.
In short, it is time that churches (as organizations) and Christians in churches (as individuals) called for sober headed maturity among our students and young adults. We are in a culture that glorifies freedom from responsibility, but we should glorify a life led with regard and respect to Jesus, our Lord.