I’ve been in youth ministry and life long enough to have heard it said with enthusiastic conviction about multiple generations, “This generation of kids is going to change the world!” I heard it said of me and my teenaged Boomer peers on the day I graduated from high school almost 50 years ago. I’ve heard it said of X’ers, Millennials, Gen Z, and Alphas as well. Optimism plays well when you want to fire up the audience and generate applause, but realistic hindsight is what offers up truth. The fact is that every generation does change the world, but in what direction?
Common grace and human depravity are both present in our world. As I get older, I’m realizing that there’s an ebb and flow to cultural change that is more common to all of humanity than to one particular generation. I’ve learned to distrust generational theory and speculation a whole lot less, while leaning a whole lot more into the human nature we all share as Divine image-bearers marred by sin.
This morning, I read these provocative and helpful words from an older and wiser Charles J. Chaput in the May issue of First Things: “When young people ask me how they can change the world, I tell them to love each other, get married, stay faithful to one another, have lots of children, and raise those children to mean and women of Christian character. Faith is a seed. It doesn’t flower overnight. It takes time and love and effort. Money is important, but never the most important thing. The future belongs to people with children, not with things. Things rust and break, but every child is a universe of possibility that reaches into eternity, connecting with our memories, and our hopes of God’s love across the generations.”
Chaput’s words resonated with me on many levels. As a culture-watcher, father, grandfather, and as of this coming Saturday a husband for 40 years. I would encourage you to read Chaput’s entire essay, which you can access here. His observations and prescriptions for change have much to say about how we parent and how we do youth ministry.