Are Teens Just Lazy Or Are We The Lazy Ones?

Friday, May 11, 2012

I will start out by saying that I am not an expert on communication, but rather far from it. Being of the male persuasion puts me at an immediate disadvantage in that men, for the most part, are not natural-born communicators. But I have, and am learning some things that have helped me become a better communicator. Let's be honest. We all could improve in this area. Whether it's in your marriage, your job, as a friend or neighbor, it is to our advantage to become better communicators. Here is a simple principle I have learned that has revolutionized my life on every level.

Understand your audience. As a parent of an 18-year old son, not a day goes by without being reminded of my total lack of ability to communicate with my teen. We speak different languages and think on completely different emotional planes. What I'm saying to him is not what he is hearing. I could blame this on the typical "teenagers just don't listen" argument, but I have found that this is really not true. It's not because he doesn't listen. It's because I'm speaking in a foreign language. My life would be so much easier if my son would just learn to speak my language and cater to my needs. But that doesn't help me. I have discovered a neat little trick that has changed my view on parenting. I decided that I am going to take the initiative and learn his language. Not only does he listen and understand, but he magically has started to embrace my culture. Once I made the first move he dropped his guard and opened up to me.

This simple little truth has huge implications for us in leadership, both in the church and in the business world. A common mistake that is made in trying to reach our audience is that we expect them to adapt to us and learn our ways, embrace our culture and speak our language. Then we are surprised when they don't embrace our message. It would be crazy of me to become a missionary to a native tribe in the Congo and expect them to learn English, dress like an American, eat the food I'm used to and become like me. As great as my message is they will reject it. No, I have to learn their language, study their customs, dress like them and embrace their culture if I am going to get them to embrace my message. I don't have to pretend to be Congolese, I just have to earn their trust.

If the Church is going to win the youth of our day, we have to stop demanding that they adapt to us. They are rejecting us because they don't trust us. In demanding they cater to us we are telling them that we think they are wrong and don't have anything to offer to our culture. We complain and criticize their worship styles, belittle their technology, accusing them of being impersonal with their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and texting forms of communication. You may disagree with me, but I have discovered that most teens are more inter-personally connected with their friends than most people my age are with theirs. Technology allows them to keep the dialogue going when they can't actually be in the same room. It is easier and takes less energy on our part to make them do things our way. It puts all the responsibility of relationship on their shoulders and that is just not fair, and honestly, not very mature on our part. Frankly, I am sick and tired of hearing adults complain about how lazy young people are these days. I think we are the lazy ones because we want them to do all the work while we sit back in our easy chairs and preach at them about how much they need to change, all the while refusing to change ourselves. As adults, we should be taking the initiative and modeling healthy communication skills for them. I challenge my generation and the generation of my parents to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Let's determine to embrace their culture for once. Let's learn to communicate their language. I think we will be surprised at how quickly it will drop their guard and open up the way for them to start embracing our culture too. I am in no way suggesting that we become like them. That is the other extreme. They don't need cool parents, they just need parents who understand them.

Isn't this what God did for us? He didn't wait for us to become like Him first. He took the initiative, took on human flesh and became like us and spoke to us in our language. He did this so that we could become like him. That is really the only way we will successfully reach our world with his message of grace, love and mercy. It's time we learn to become multilingual.

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