Monday, June 20, 2011

Consuming Youth

In recent years, the news media have reported on a handful of child kidnapping stories that for years remained unresolved. While each of these stories are complex and nuanced, it’s always surprising to learn that the unwilling captive was somehow brainwashed to the point of assimilating themselves into the system of the captor to the point where they lived there willingly, rather than trying to escape. I wonder if the same dynamic isn’t at work on us and our kids as marketing hijacks our hearts and minds so effectively, that we willingly enjoy and seek out the opportunity to keep riding along?

In their book, Consuming Youth: Leading Teens Through Consumer Culture (Zondervan, 2010), John Berard, James Penner and Rick Bartlett take readers on a tour of the history of consumer culture and how it established consumption as the primary purpose of our kids. Youth culture and modern adolescence are relatively recent social and economic inventions. They have functioned to shape our identities so effectively that we’ve just come to accept that this is the way it is, and the way it’s supposed to be. But the trio of authors asks those of us who love and care for kids to step back and see that consumer culture is really doing to our kids. Then, they start a conversation about what it means to re-think youth ministry in ways that shape significantly different ideology of youth, one that debunks the myths of consumer culture while helping them find their identity and calling in Christ.

Consuming Youth is a thoughtful book that raises important issues and can get us started on the journey to reframing our ministries in response to the ways that marketing and consumer culture so quickly and easily rope our kids – and us – in. This is one worth reading and discussing in a group.

--Walt Mueller

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