Tag: youth culture

The global future: Chinese, pluralistic, young

Tom Friedman, author of The World is Flat and New York Times columnist, is big on China, but he’s not the only one.  The 21st century is being called the “China Century” as China’s economy is predicted to grow to three times the size of the US economy by 2040, only 30 years from now.  One book, When China Rules The World, foresees drastic cultural and political changes as China rises in world status.

What does this have to do with churches?  Just this — young people, including Chinese young people, are already exerting tremendous social pressure on the global culture.  Trends in China’s emerging generation are both reflecting and influencing  the world youth culture.  I track several emerging gen sites and blogs, and Chinese trends are appearing more often.

One site, enoVate, belongs to the company by the same name.  Headquartered in Shanghai, China, enoVate’s mission is “insights and creative solutions for China’s youth market.”  But look at their client page — Coca-Cola, Sprite, New Balance, Kraft, Unilever, Ticketmaster, and assorted other American and European corporations.  All of them are trying to expand their reach in the world’s largest youth market by understanding what makes Chinese youth tick.

A recent post on enoVate’s blog posed a provocative idea — ‘”I Want A Mixed-Race Baby”: Are Chinese Youth After a Mixed-Race Baby?’ The combination of Chinese features, augmented by those of another race, are seen as both exotic and desirable among Chinese youth.   The previously insular Chinese society has not only adopted the racial pluralism of the United States (we have a mixed race president now), but has given racial pluralism an uniquely Chinese twist, which is what China tends to do with any trend they adopt.

My point in this is not to build an airtight case for the rise of China, but to suggest that we tend to look only within ourselves and our own culture for insights into how to do church.  But there are other models that are taking a broader, more global view.  One example is Newsong church, with its international locations in California, India, London, Bangkok, Mexico City, and the other parts of the US, which has styled itself as a “third culture” church.  More churches will follow Newsong’s lead, and if you have traveled in Asia as I have, you recognize that China dominates the landscape.

With increasing global communication, world travel, and social networking, we need to pay attention to the trends driving China.  Because, to paraphrase Hollywood, these are coming soon to a community near you.

Breaking News: After I posted this article on Jan 20, the Jan 21 edition of the New York Times carried this headline and article — Foreign Languages Fade in Class – Except Chinese.  It appears that while other language subjects are declining, the teaching of Chinese in public and private schools is increasing, partially because China is paying the salaries of teachers to travel from China to teach in the US.  Remember when all Chinese wanted to learn English?  Interesting.

A different take on Michael Phelps

Youth culture sees the Michael Phelps pot-smoking incident much differently than the adult world does.  Three Billion, a blog about youth culture, says,

You’ve got to feel sorry for Michael Phelps. A lifetime of training, early mornings, injuries, pain, performing on a global stage to billions of people to ultimately become the worlds greatest Olympian. And then…he’s brought down to earth with a bump after pictures of him smoking a bong are circulated around the world.

That’s a big contrast to the Kellog’s company who terminated their agreement with Phelps this week, saying that his actions did not fit their corporate image.  It’s also a different take than USA Swimming’s suspension that they handed Phelps.

The Three Billion piece explains it this way —

The great thing about being young is that you experiment, you try new things, you do things differently than your parents and teachers. This experimentation means that you sometimes walk with one foot in illegality (would it be as much fun if you weren’t?).

They key is that this doesn’t apply to a small section of the youth population, it applies to pretty-much all of them. Whether that be drugs, sex, climbing buildings, stealing stuff, driving too fast…we’ve all done it and they are certainly all doing it. Young people are not criminals, they are just young people. It’s the universal indiscretions of youth.

In order for those of us in church to even begin a conversation with the younger unchurched, we need to hear their rationale and consider it seriously.  Ed Stetzer’s new book, Lost and Found, is the best resource I’ve seen addressing the issue of 18-29 year olds who are unchurched.

I expressed my views on this subject here earlier this week.  I wanted you to get the view from the other side, too.  What challenges does the prevailing youth culture present to the traditional church today?  How do we deal with that point of view that says, “It’s the universal indiscretions of youth?”